1925 Honor: The Dream Coach (The Kind With Horses)

VERDICT: Treasure?

Laurinda’s Rating: 3/5

The Dream Coach was one of the 1925 Newbery Honor book. It’s a series of loosely connect stories told in folktale/fairytale style. In it, the Dream Coach, pulled by a team of horses, brings dreams to four children, who each need dreams for different reasons.

The dreams are mildly entertaining. Each is fairly original and disconnected from the others. In the first one, a lonely princess receives a funny dream to cheer her after a celebration of her birthday which fails to actually include her. A Norwegian boy dreams life into the objects around him, including a snowman that comes alive. Interestingly, the snowman is evil when his mouth is attached as a frown but jolly when it’s a smile. The Little Emperor of China is keeping a wild bird caged in his chambers, so an angel delivers dreams in which the Emperor is similarly confined, increasing the child’s empathy and leading to the release of the bird. In the final story, a French peasant boy, enticed by his uncle’s stories of exotic travels, imagines each of his family members as elements: grandma is water, grandpa is snow, uncle is wind, etc.

The stories themselves are imaginative and at least slightly amusing. They also address some of the key fears and insecurities of young children: being left alone, being trapped, etc. However, being from 1925, there IS some casual racism, primarily in unflatteringly stereotypical descriptions of characters. These primarily refer to Chinese characters (cartoonish physical description, spoilt emperor, fat advisors) and black ones (always cast as hulking servants/slaves). Some of the illustrations display the same qualities.

This wasn’t a bad read, particularly considering when it was written. The narrative moves along at a decent pace, interspersing prose narrative with verse interludes. For people interested in narratives with a traditional feel but new content, the book is an interesting read. I’d say it’s best for kids in mid elementary school, though the themes are perfectly accessible to younger children. If you can’t find a physical copy of the book, a public domain copy of The Dream Coach is available here. The formatting is a little funky, but the main content is there.

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