Many children are instantly enchanted by the Oak Bluffs institution known as the Flying Horses. But a recently published children’s book, When Horses Fly, gives new meaning to the horses’ flight.
One night as a young girl named Caroline struggles to fall asleep, the Flying Horses carousel appears to her outside her house. Suddenly, one of the painted horses magically flies off the carousel and lets Caroline ride her, giving her a chance to say a final goodbye to her pet horse Nutmeg, who had died months ago.
But Caroline isn’t the only one getting over a recent loss. Author Jacqui Boulter wrote the story, her first book ever, as a final goodbye to a horse she rode frequently for four years.
“It helped me heal from the loss of a horse that I was insane about,” she said. “It’s a story of healing.”
Like Caroline, Mrs. Boulter grew up visiting the Island and, of course, riding on the Flying Horses carousel.
“This is my way of giving something back to an Island I love, and to a carousel that I love,” she said. A portion of the profits of the book will benefit the maintenance of the carousel.
Mrs. Boulter’s book captures the magic of riding the carousel and catching the brass ring. It also reveals a fact even experienced Flying Horses riders often do not know; carousel creator Charles W.F. Dare, who built the Flying Horses in 1876, placed one small animal figure in each horse’s glass eye.
The emotion of the story is woven into the artwork too, thanks to illustrator Sabrina Kuchta’s colorful gouache paintings.
This is also Ms. Kuchta’s first picture book.
Mrs. Boulter now lives in New Jersey with her three teenage children, but she dreamed of being a writer since the age of five. Her parents advised her, “It’s fun to dabble, but pick yourself a practical career,” she recalled.
Mrs. Boulter chose a career in insurance. But when she turned 40, she started taking some classes to learn the business of writing children’s literature.
“When I had my first publication, I thought, okay, I think I can do this,” she said. She is currently working on a pirate story that involves a curious parrot.
When she was younger, Ms. Kuchta also enjoyed riding the Flying Horses Carousel.
“I have a distinct memory of getting the brass ring,” she recalls. “It was super exciting...I was obviously obsessed with it.”
Ms. Kuchta first came to the Island in utero, and she’s been living here during the summers since seventh grade. During the year, she lives in Northborough, Massachusetts.
When she was first notified that she’d been selected to illustrate the book, Ms. Kuchta “screamed very embarrassingly,” she said. “There was also some dancing,” she admits. “As a story to illustrate goes, it was a fantastic story to work with. I love the magic of the idea of her flying off with the horse and having one last goodbye.”
Gouache, Ms. Kutcha’s medium of choice, is a watercolor-like medium, that’s more vibrant than watercolor, Ms. Kuchta said. The composition and use of light in her paintings complement the story well. One particularly beautiful spread is a closeup of a horse’s eye, which contains the reflection of Nutmeg’s image.
The book was published by Vineyard Stories, the Edgartown-based publishing company headed by Jan Pogue. After experiencing rejections from many editors, Mrs. Boulter received a call from Jan Pogue who told her that she receives a lot of children’s book manuscripts about seagulls, and beaches, but that Ms. Boulter’s was different.
“I realized it was a niche market book,” Mrs. Boulter said. “[Ms. Pogue] knew how to take my story and make it the best that it could possibly be for the Island.”
Jacqui Boulter and Sabrina Kuchta will be signing copies of their book on July 8 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Featherstone Center for the Arts and at the Flying Horses Carousel on July 9, between 3 and 4 p.m.