Brief Description: A Jewish homesteading mother in Wyoming rescues an orphaned colt.

Geographical Setting: , , ,

Historical Era:

Date Range: Early 1900s

Keywords: , , ,

Original Publication: 1989

Suitable for Grades: 2-4th

Target Audience: Picture Book

Librarian's Review

Berchick, which means “little bear” in Yiddish, is the name a Jewish Russian American immigrant family gives to a newborn orphaned colt that Mama discovers one day on her way home from town. He is a fancy well-bred Thoroughbred, unlike the plow and cart horses that work their homestead. She promises the dead mare that she will watch over the baby horse. Berchick grows up to become a family pet, letting the three children climb on his back, and following the family members around on various errands and neighborly visits. Athletic and smart, he can jump any fence and seems to understand what people say to him.

All in the family are quite fond of Berchick, so it is with much sadness that after two unsuccessful farming years the family must abandon the homestead and move back into town. A horse trader buys all of the horses including Berchick, and takes them away. Twice he returns to the family in the evening, and Mama warns him that he should run away. And so he does! Some time later, a family friend relates that he saw Berchick in the hills, running with a herd of wild horses.

This story has no specific historical details, but the author depicts aspects of her Jewish childhood on a Wyoming homestead in the early 1900s. Black and white illustrations by Tennessee Dixon show frontier life in this time period. A particularly stunning spread shows Main Street, horses and carts on a dirt road running between blocks of shops, and people strolling on a boardwalk.   Another illustration shows several Jewish families celebrating Thanksgiving together in their unique way.

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