Horse, Flower, Bird

Stories by Kate Bernheimer, illustrated by Rikki Ducornet

August 24, 2010 • 6 x 7.5 • 208 pages • 978-1-56689-247-6

Eight marvelous, melancholy new fairy tales for daring readers.

In Kate Bernheimer’s familiar and spare, yet wondrous world, an exotic dancer builds her own cage, a wife tends a secret basement menagerie, a fishmonger’s daughter befriends a tulip bulb, and sisters explore cycles of love and violence by reenacting scenes from Star Wars. Enthralling, subtle, and poetic, this collection evokes the age-old pleasures of classic fairy tales and makes them new.

Horse, Flower, Bird includes eight black and white illustrations.

About the Author

Kate Bernheimer is the author of two novels and the children’s book The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. She is also the editor of the literary journal Fairy Tale Review, and three anthologies, including My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales (forthcoming from Penguin in 2010). An Associate Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette each spring, she spends the rest of the year in Tucson, Arizona.

An artist and fiction writer, Rikki Ducornet has illustrated books by Robert Coover, Jorge Luis Borges, Forrest Gander, and Joanna Howard. Her paintings have been exhibited widely, including, most recently, at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Salvador Allende Museum in Santiago, Chile.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“Quirky, twisted. . . . Quietly unhinged narratives by an author who reinvents the fairy tale.” Kirkus

“The stories in Horse, Flower, Bird are melancholy—as are Rikki Ducornet’s accompanying illustrations—but also as bright and sprightly as a little caged bird.” Baltimore City Paper

“[Bernheimer’s] strangely moving stories, such as the eight collected in Horse, Flower, Bird, combine fantasy with deep wisdom; the illustrations by Rikki Ducornet are an added delight.” Reader’s Digest

“Deep-seated fears find their way into these eight brief, dark adult fairy tales. . . . These stories are the product of a vivid imagination and crafty manipulation by their skillful creator.” Publishers Weekly

“Hauntingly poetic. . . . By turns lovely and tragic, Bernheimer’s spare but captivating fables of femininity resonate like a string of sad but all-too-real and meaningful dreams. This is a collection readers won’t soon forget, one that redefines the fairy tale into something wholly original.” Booklist

“Imaginative. . . . Lean and lyrical writing. . . . Bernheimer’s passion for fairy tales is evident in every story she spins. . . . [Her] work provides a refreshing contrast to most available fiction. It is no stretch to compare her to Aimee Bender or Kelly Link.” Library Journal

“In Horse, Flower, Bird, Bernheimer’s fourth book, femininity is portrayed as a series of traumas shaped by language. Despite its playful packaging, this book recalls the grim cautionary messages of old-world fairy tales. Bernheimer’s message? ‘Be careful what you read.’”American Book Review

“Although we may no longer turn to fairy tales, we may still need the invocation ‘once upon a time’ to enter our imaginations. Bernheimer’s most recent attempt to draw us into this world suggests that intellect may hold the primary key to imagination. As we once wanted to read classic fairy tales over and over, the melancholy tales in Horse, Flower, Bird need to read over and over.” Contrary Magazine

“This is a delightful collection of strange tales. . . . The stories are also accompanied by anthropomorphic illustrations by Rikki Ducornet, which are wonderfully befitting of the tales. This made for a quick read, as once I was pulled into the worlds of these stories, I did not want to stop reading until I found out where Bernheimer was taking me.” New Pages Review

“A strange and enchanting book, written in crisp, winning sentences; each story begs to be read aloud and savored.” —Aimee Bender

“Each of these spare and elegant tales rings like a bell in your head. Memorable, original, and not much like anything else you’ve read.” —Karen Joy Fowler

Horse, Flower, Bird rests uneasily between the intersection of fantasy and reality, dreaming and wakefulness, and the sacred and profane. Like a series of beautiful but troubling dreams, this book will linger long in the memory. Kate Bernheimer is reinventing the fairy tale.” —Peter Buck, R.E.M.

“A beautiful little book of fairy tales meant for grown-ups.” Venus Zine

“Once upon a time, there was a lovely petal-winged book that had legs so small they poked into the tiniest capillaries of your heart, a mane that smelled like sea air and nostalgia, and a young girl’s eyes that promised penance prior to murder. . . . A kind gift from the vast imagination of Kate Bernheimer. Horse, Flower, Bird is a collection of eight stories–jewels that politely but firmly ask to be held up into the light, examined, perhaps coddled, maybe caged, and then, of course, set free.” New Delta Review

Horse, Flower, Bird, possesses everything you want to find in remarkable, enchanting, and lasting fairy tales—the delightful, imaginative kind of stores you want to tell in front of fires, or on the phone late at night under the covers, the stories you know you will never tell as well as the original author, the ones about phobias and cages and learning the love cages, but you know you have to try and retell them anyway.” Puerto Del Sol