I Cannot Draw a Horse (I Cannot Draw #1)

by Charise Mericle Harper (Author)

I Cannot Draw a Horse (I Cannot Draw #1)
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade
Series: I Cannot Draw

Award-winning author and illustrator Charise Mericle Harper delivers a fantastically funny picture book about doing the impossible: drawing a horse.

A children's metafiction book about creativity and imaginative play centered around an art lesson, Harper cleverly shows readers how drawings are a collection of recognizable shapes put together to create something new. Elementary-aged readers will delight as the simple "nothing shape" becomes a cat, a squirrel, a beaver, a bunny, a dog, a turtle, and a bear. But what about a horse? The cat really wants a horse. But . . . the book cannot draw a horse. Can the quick-draw book appease the horse-obsessed cat with an impressive collection of horse-y alternatives (all created from the same "nothing shape")? Or will the cat finally get a horse?

Harper's quirky, contemporary voice and kid-friendly comic illustration style is on full display in this hilarious picture book with art education appeal.

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Kirkus Reviews

Draw this one from the shelf for a fun, metafictive read. 

Publishers Weekly

"This is my shape," an unseen narrator announces, introducing a smallish gray mound set against a field of graph paper. It doesn't seem like much (even the shape itself says so), but with a few deft adds, it becomes a schematic cat with black-lined features. Bravo! But the cat, who speaks in yellow dialogue balloons, has a mind of its own, and has no interest in the animals that the narrator draws via the same basic shape. The cat reveals its desire for a "fun, fast friend"--a horse--which is the one thing that the narrator won't even attempt: "A horse is hard to draw." Navigating a landscape filled with objects based on the same thumbnail form, the cat continues its bargaining with "I WANT A HORSE! I WANT A HORSE! I WANT A HORSE!" before wisely changing course and fashioning a "YOU CAN DRAW A HORSE" trophy for the narrator. "You must really believe in me. I will try something new," the voice says, and turns to create an adorable horse--one that proves equally demanding in its own difficult-to-draw request. This simply rendered meta read-aloud by Harper (Bad Sister) raises a host of interesting questions about self-imposed limitations as well as possibilities for growth. Ages 3-8. Agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (Sept.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 2--"This is my shape," begins a never-seen narrator on a page showing a firmly outlined blue gumdrop. When the shape complains that it is a nothing, the narrator turns it into a cat. "I want a horse," demands the cat. But horses are hard to draw, so the narrator proceeds to cajole the cat into accepting things that are easier to draw: squirrel, beaver, bunny, dog. Of course, dogs chase cats, who then need hills and skateboards in order to escape. And thus, a zany exchange ensues with the unreasonable cat continuing to demand a fun, fast horse and the narrator diverting him with all manner of gumdrop-shaped alternatives. When the artist discovers that it is, indeed, possible to draw a horse, that horse has no interest in running. He wants a bicycle, which is simply too hard to draw. With antecedents in Harold and the Purple Crayon and the "Elephant and Piggie" books, Harper wields her own mischievous humor. Simple, childlike lines are filled with flat colors on an expansive graph paper ground. VERDICT An easy-to-read text with exclamatory speech bubbles and pictorial antics will tickle funny bones in this off-kilter circular story.--Jan Aldrich Solow

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"This book is clever in its simple story and imaginative, 2-D illustrations, which are printed on pages like graph paper. Easy text appears in both standard form and yellow speech bubbles, giving it an easy-to-follow, graphic novel feel. Creative and loaded with humor, this story will have kids giggling in seconds and trying their hand at drawing a horse—or at least a gumdrop." — Booklist, Starred Review

"Part Ed Emberley, with a dash of Pigeon, and entirely meta.... Draw this one from the shelf for a fun, metafictive read." — Kirkus Reviews

"Harper's illustrations make so much of so little, using a very limited palette and simple shapes, inviting readers into an artist's notebook. With a little imagination and some paper, 'nothing' can become quite something." — Horn Book Magazine
Charise Mericle Harper

Charise Mericle Harper is the award-winning author and illustrator of numerous children's books and series, including the Just Grace series, the Fashion Kitty series, and the Next Best Junior Chef series. Harper's signature wit, kid-friendly illustrations, and wholly original style have made her a familiar name with caregivers, educators, and librarians looking for books that encourage imagination and showcase art education. Charise lives with her family and furry pets in Portland, Oregon.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Union Square Kids
Publication date
October 11, 2022
I Cannot Draw
BISAC categories
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV002050 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Cats
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
JUV003000 - Juvenile Fiction | Art & Architecture
JUV002130 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Horses
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Animals in art

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