If you thought just because “Berchick” means little bear in Yiddish a book by this title would be about a cub you’d be mistaken. It is about a newborn colt, who had thick fur when he was found next to her dead mare. He was found by the mother of the narrator (a young child) who promised on the spot to take care of the young creature.
These and the rest of the events are all set in Wyoming. Both the author, Esther Silverstein Blanc, and the illustrator, Tennessee Dixon grew up there. The loving care and attention to the details of the descriptive text and water paintings clearly reflect their affinity to the Great Plains region. I loved the paintings, but I regretted that only the cover one was in color, the rest was black and white. It set an unnecessarily melancholic tone for the mostly positive book.
The first half of the book, covering the younger years of the horse, the narrator and his siblings are truly idyllic and happy. The homesteader family doesn’t seem to have any problems; the horse is smart, friendly and splendid. Later, during the rough years, they have to move to town and sell the horse. As we learn at the end the horse eventually learns to live in the wild and that seems to support its manifest destiny.
I borrowed this book from a Jewish library, so I was expecting it to have some Jewish content. My expectation was met, but it wasn’t a particularly Jewish book, besides the name of the horse, the mention of the Talmud once and the use of the word “chochim” once it could have been about any family. Well, maybe the fact that the father’s fallback work was being a tailer was a hint. Otherwise thought it was just a book about a Midwest family, like many others.
The end of the backflap of the book says this about the publisher, “Volcano Press is a woman-owned company, publishing women-oriented books that seek to enlighten, liberate and delight.” The company’s home page has more detailed information about their admirable mission and history. Having read the above I realized that in the center of the book was the relationship between the matriarch of the family and the horse. It was a strong and defining bond in both directions. I recommend reading the book to observe that, the peaceful drawings, and the description of a simple life.