Wild Blue by Dashka Slater & Laura Hughes

Wild Blue, written by Dashka Slater and brilliantly illustrated by Laura Hughes. Just look at this jacket— The shadows? The bike’s shadow is a horse! The little girl’s shadow is wearing a cowgirl hat! How clever! How true! How nostalgic! And zappo— I was whipped back to my childhood. Chester, my brown bike was not a bike. He was a horse. He was a fast, speedy, wild, untamed chestnut thoroughbred that rode like the wind. And, of course, I was the only one who could tame him and ride him.

In Wild Blue, Kayla outgrows her beloved little kid bike and must try to tame a big kid bike. She’s scared, and falls off (is bucked off) the new blue steed several times. Dashka Slater’s writing is so spot on and sensitive. She uses horse lingo seamlessly, ex. Dad puts her pink pony out to pasture. And combined with Laura Hughes’ super smart and subtle illustrations, ex. notice that Kayla’s reflection shows a western hat as she puts on her bike helmet on the title page, create a very clever and cohesive tale both telling and showing Kayla overcoming her fear and learning how to tame/ride her new bike, Wild Blue.

I really enjoyed the layout and design of this book as well. The multiple title pages make it feel like such a sort of “get ready”, “get set”, “go”, introduction. There is a subtitle on the second title page which I liked and thought was an unusual detail. The subtitle is not on the jacket, nor on the first title page, but on the second one appears, “Taming a Big-Kid Bike”.

What could have been a simple ‘bike as a horse’ tale is elevated to a story of self empowerment, growth, perseverance, and achievement. Author and Illustrator both combine their artistry to weave a very special story together with verbal and visual cues that readers will love to discover.

I loved being transported in time, flying through my neighborhood on the back of my swift brown stallion. Thank you, Dashka Slater and Laura Hughes for bringing back such happy memories, and creating a beautiful, poignant, meaningful picture book for younger readers and riders.

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. EVERYONE can identify with this book! My dad held the back of my bike, too, as I learned to ride. Love this!

    • Hi Kathy, Thanks for visiting us and commenting today! I agree that there is a takeaway in this book for everyone who grew up riding a bike. And on top of that, a message about persistence and personal success. Thanks so much!

  2. Ohhhhhh those shadows are something SPECIAL. I adore tricky illustrations – Adrian Simcox Does Not Have A Horse – and this reminds me of that. 🐎🚲

  3. Love this book! Glad I have it to study and love.

    My daughter called her outdated, second hand bicycle “The Iron Donkey” because it was so heavy and hard to move!

  4. danielle hammelef

    This is so clever! I’d forgotten how I used to pretend I was riding a horse when I was younger too. The illustrations add so much to this story.

  5. Very clever art and story!

  6. Oh my goodness! Those shadows!!! I wonder if there was an art note or if the illustrator came up with this brilliant idea herself. Such a beautiful book! Thanks Jennifer.

  7. So wonderful! I had horses growing up and enjoyed many fabulous days of riding. But if I was on foot, my own 2 legs became the horse. My friends and I were very good horses and riders. We practiced all the things: barrel racing, lead changing, roping, galloping, and so on. Ahhh. This book brings back sweet childhood memories.

  8. This looks like a geat book! So creative and appealing to kids. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. On my to-read list, Jennifer. It looks lovely!

  10. As a kid who was given a “first bike” that was far too big for my size, I empathize with Kayla. Lovely illustrations! Adding to my TBR list. Thanks for the rec!

  11. The bike I learned to ride on was an old blue hand-me-down. I was bucked off many times but finally tamed it. What a wonderful story that expresses this writ of passage for so many kids.

  12. What a delightful book! I think I’ll go ride my bike/horse this afternoon. I can’t wait to share this with by little cycling friends.

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