November 21, 2018

Team Steve

Written and illustrated by Kelly Collier
Kids Can Press
978-1-77138-932-7
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
September 2018

Let's face it: Steve the Horse, introduced in Kelly Collier's A Horse Named Steve (Kids Can Press, 2017), is a bit of a narcissist. It's all about him. In his first book, he wanted to be seen as exceptional among the animals, oblivious to the strengths of others, seeing them as ordinary. Now, in Team Steve, Steve is looking forward to winning yet another race-a-thon, knowing how extraordinary he is as a runner.
From Team Steve by Kelly Collier
But the rules of the race have changed and Steve is put on a relay team with Duck, Turtle and Snail. Steve is perplexed as to how they are to win when "A duck waddles, a turtle walks and a snail ... is a snail!"  Even as each of his teammates suggests that he could coach them, sharing his expertise, he ignores their suggestions until he comes up with the same idea they've been proposing. Problem is that Steve is all about Steve, so his coaching is not about his teammates but about himself. Among his pearls of coaching wisdom, he advises Turtle to lift his hooves (?), Snail to eat three bowls of oats a day and Duck to stretch its neck.
From Team Steve by Kelly Collier
On the day of the race-a-thon, it's Turtle, Snail and Duck who surpass all expectations and pass their race competitors, while it is Steve who loses the race for them. Too busy congratulating himself on coaching his team to a victory, he delays in running his stretch of the race and the other teams tie to win.  Still it's his teammates that help him overcome his embarrassment before Steve is back applauding himself for helping the other teams win.
From Team Steve by Kelly Collier
Oh, Steve. He is such a self-centred horse, always focusing on his own needs and wants and how he is perceived by others. He is totally unconcerned with others except as they relate to him.  Kids will laugh themselves silly at the foolishness of Steve's need for attention and glory knowing that he is the centre of his own distress.  If Team Steve teaches anything it's that teamwork requires cooperation and listening to others, but it's a lesson Steve still needs to learn. Fortunately, Kelly Collier has created some great characters, including Bob the raccoon who organizes the race and the teams, to help Steve see beyond himself. Her characters, so suggestive in their expressions and body language, demonstrate their own frustration with the equine, as well as their curiosity and pleasure. Moreover, Kelly Collier does this with a very limited palette of beiges with black and white.

Steve may not be the most collaborative but his intent, like his emotional support for his teammates, is honest. Perhaps that's why, even when he messes up, like we all do, they forgive him and help him find acceptance of the situation. And with friends to help, everyone, even Steve, is a winner.

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