Friday, July 14, 2023

NO HORSES IN THE HOUSE by Mirielle Messier & Anna Bron

 During my summer reading, I discovered this wonderful book which is too good not to share! I love stories about strong girls but this is a great book for anyone who wants to follow their own dreams.

Drawing of three horse heads looking at centre of page where girl is working at an easel, title above the easel
Why this book?

I found this story in my library's online collection when doing some research for one of my own writing projects. Was I intrigued! I’d never heard of this artist before but I was captured by her story. I loved learning about her life and the perseverance she showed in working towards her dream of becoming an artist. A great story for all ages!

My thoughts as a creator:

Even though I don’t write biography, it was interesting to see how Rosa’s life experiences were selected to create an attention-getting story. I love how the colour palette the artist chose makes me think of history and the past. The characters have such great facial expressions and there are lots of interesting details and movement in the illustrations that bring a playful feel to the story.

My thoughts as an educator:

What a great book for discussing the idea of breaking down barriers and considering different perspectives! This is a good story to read anytime in the classroom, with opportunities for discussion about following your own dreams, not giving up when you face something challenging, or times when girls weren’t allowed to do things. Also a nice book for showcasing a little art history.

Ages: 5 - 9

Grades: Gr 1 - 4

Connections: gender roles, animal painting, perseverance, artist biography


Art Discussion:  Show several examples of Rosa Bonheur’s art work to students. Discuss questions such as: What do you notice about her artwork? What subjects did she like to paint or sculpt? How does the art work make you feel? Prompt: If you could ask the artist a question, what would you ask?

Art Activity:  Trying out texture, From Suzanne Tiedemann on

Watch this video about visual texture:  Talk about textures in the classroom.  Provide black paper and oil pastels for students to create their own textured lion face drawing.

Literacy/Persuasive Writing: This book could be a springboard for persuasive writing activities. For example, have students generate a list of things they aren’t allowed to do. Create a speech to persuade an adult with three reasons why they should be allowed to do it. Or, pretend you are Rosa Bonheur and design a poster to explain to others why you should be allowed to have a horse in the house.

Literacy/Alphabet: Create a class alphabet book! Encourage students to choose a letter of the alphabet and draw an animal to represent the letter. Or, make a list of the letters of the alphabet and encourage students to think of an animal to go with each letter.

STEM: Provide opportunities for students to research horses. Question/Prompt: If a horse can’t live in a house, where could it live? Design an ideal home for a horse using found materials such as straws, popsicle sticks, cardboard, and tape.


More resources:

  • Links for background information:

  • Hands On Art Activity ideas:

  • Other reviews (click title for link):

Canadian Review of Materials, reviewed by Julia Pitre

Description from the publisher:

Based on the incredible life of the pioneering, feminist and queer artist Rosa Bonheur, this charming story depicts Rosa's early years and her drive to fight for her dreams.

Rosa Bonheur loved to draw animals. She was good at it too! Unfortunately, in nineteenth-century France, girls were not allowed to be artists. But Rosa didn't let that stop her. In this fictionalized account of her early life in Paris, Rosa studies art at home, bringing a menagerie of animals into the apartment to study up close. When she is kicked out of the horse market for sneaking in wearing boys clothing, Rosa must think creatively to challenge the rules in pursuit of her dream of becoming a world-class realist painter and artist.

No Horses in the House! The Audacious Life of Artist Rosa Bonheur, written by Mirielle Messier and illustrated by Anna Bron, was published by Orca Books in 2023.

Visit the creators (click for link):

Mirielle Messier

Anna Bron

Orca Books

 For more wonderful picture books, visit Perfect Picture Book Friday!