Title: Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia
Author and Illustrator: Ted Lewin and Betsy Lewin
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 5.0
Concepts: natural resources, human resources, incentives
Review: The Naadam, an annual festival held throughout Mongolia that features horse racing, is thought to be one of the world’s oldest sporting events, second only to the Olympics. Told from Ted and Betsy Lewin’s point of view and based on events during their journey to Southern Mongolia, the story highlights one of those horse races across a fourteen-mile stretch of the Gobi Desert. At a camp of horse trainers about 800 miles away from the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, a nomad family has kindly offered the Lewins their hospitality. The reader also meets a nine-year old member of this family, Tamir, who is hard at work training his half-wild race horse in preparation for the upcoming Naadam. Much of the book chronicles the way of life for this family in the desert, the practice of “sweating up” the horses for the race, and the enormous excitement on race day.
Although the book focuses on the horse race competition and the question of how Tamir will perfom as a jockey, the authors have carefully woven in a set of economics lessons related to natural and human resources. For example, the family members use the milk from their mares, sheep, cows, and goats to make a variety of food and drink items. Also, the abundance of horses in Mongolia (there may be three times as many horses as people), helps to explain the popularity of horse racing. The intricate illustrations further help to convey how the family maintains its livelihood in the desert. Children and adults alike will appreciate the book’s exciting plot, strong substantive content, and unique focus on Mongolia.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children