Meet Max and Annabel, two patrol horses in Central Park!
“Max and Annabel: The First Patrol” is a delightful children’s book that takes readers on a charming journey through New York City’s Central Park through the eyes of two big, beautiful and friendly draft horses of the NYC mounted patrol. It is the first in a planned series which follows Max and Annabel as they fight fires, bust crime, and help the citizens of the Big Apple enjoy the city’s largest green space.
The story is told by an omniscient narrator who can share the thoughts and feelings of Max and Annabel as they meet, explore the park, and interact with police officers and civilians. The descriptions of the park in winter, the barns, and the horses themselves are vivid and sweet. I imagine there’s also quite a bit of accurate information, as the author was a volunteer for the park patrol while living in New York City.
But the true masterpiece of the book is the artwork by Jennifer Brandon, whose work has so much movement and life that the horses seem to walk right off the page and into your imagination. The expressions and warmth –contrasted with the snowy park scenes and stillness of the barn interiors — are positively otherworldly.
I read the book to my 11-month-old who obviously can’t understand the words or plot, but she squealed with delight at every new image of a horse, pointing and clapping and reaching out to stroke Annabel’s dapple gray coat. It seems like it could be a series she could grow up with and return to many times throughout her childhood.
My only wish for the title was that it had gone through a bit more proof reading before publication, but that being said, the story is still a lovely adventure, and the errors are a minor distraction.
“Max and Annabel” is as much a work of art as it is a book, and it’s a truly beautiful addition to a young child’s horse book collection. This would make a beautiful gift for a birthday or winter holiday, as the snowy illustrations are so festive and seasonal. Then again, in the July heatwave, the glowing snowdrifts in central park seem to cool the whole room down!