Bill Peet - Cowardly Clyde

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Cowardly Clyde Needs a Dose of Courage

Jul 28, 2012
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:great pictures, good story for skittish kids

Cons:color scheme is a bit drab

The Bottom Line: It's hard to be a wimpy horse in the service of a knight...

With the exception of Sir Robin of Monty Python fame, knights always make me think of courage and valor. However, given all the country he must traverse, a knight is only as good as his horse. What happens if his noble steed starts shivering in his horseshoes? That is the premise behind Cowardly Clyde, a book by Bill Peet, former Disney animator and prolific author of picture books.

The title character is a gray and white horse in the wrong line of work for his nervous disposition. He’s got the right build to be a mighty warrior, and he’s good at puffing out his chest and looking impressive, but on the inside, he’s quaking like crazy. Will he be able to summon up the courage he needs when his knight faces his gravest challenge, or will he turn tail and run in his rider’s hour or need?

As a skittish sort myself, I found that this story had a lot of resonance for me. I can easily sympathize with Clyde; I certainly wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about the dire possibilities that come with carrying a knight, particularly meeting an enormous ogre who’s been terrorizing villagers. That beast is quite the alarming brute, reminding me of the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are but less friendly. His presence makes the book exciting as kids can ponder how such a beast will ever be defeated.

I love the name of the knight, Sir Galavant – an appropriate moniker for someone who spends so much time in the saddle meandering the countryside. His excess of bravado is a bit wearying, in a comical sort of way. He’s a bit of a lunkhead, from the start it seems likely that Clyde is going to have an opportunity to bail him out of hot water before the story is over. Will it be physical strength or mental acuity that wins the day? How will he summon his hidden stores of courage?

The illustrations are wonderful and expressive. This isn’t as colorful as some of his books, mostly greens and browns and grays, but it still feels vibrant. The expressions on the faces of Clyde and the ogre are particularly dynamic. Meanwhile, Peet carefully chooses some very colorful adjectives to give us a sense of Sir Galavant’s machismo and Clyde’s jitteriness. It all adds up to a thoroughly charming story for anyone who loves medieval adventures or who could use a little help overcoming his or her fears.

Recommend this product? Yes

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