Cognitive Books by Sylvia Fein

Heidi’s Horse by Sylvia Fein is an analysis of a child’s artistic life. It reveals that in their drawings all children sequentially obey universal imperatives which are identical to those in the history of mankind’s art. It demonstrates that art is a second language: logical, orderly, systematic, abstract, subtle, serious and humorous; a way to say something about the world that words can’t say.

Heidi’s Horse examines the miraculously valid reasoning in children’s drawings, and recounts the development of visual intelligence between the ages of two and seventeen. Two hundred and fifty drawings, presented chronologically, accompanied by terse analytic text, show how a child’s mind builds strategies for solving increasingly involved artistic problems, and how genuine creativity, when properly aroused, can sustain itself.

Heidi’s Horse is a pedagogical tool for psychiatrists, psychologists, pediatricians, art therapists, specialists in early childhood education, parents, teachers of art and elementary education, practitioners and investigators in the fields of creativity, self-motivation, thinking and learning. Pictorial evidence produced by a subject under constant observation records the mental process involved in creating a work of art.

This is What the Critics Say about Heidi’s Horse

Yale University

“Longitudinal studies of any aspect of human functioning are infrequent because they involve a commitment which few people are able or willing to make. Sylvia Fein has made that commitment with Heidi’s Horse and we are all in her debt for the illumination she sheds on artistic development.”

Seymour B. Sarason, Professor of Psychology
Emeritus, Yale University

Learning Magazine

“I have never before seen a book like Heidi’s Horse – astonishing – a living record of a child’s growth as an artist and thinker. Fein is a crack interpreter because she sticks to the material at hand, rarely missing what is before her eyes or reading in what is not. When the four-year-old artist gives a subject as many as eight legs in order to fill a given body line, Fein explains that ‘artistic necessity’ is here taking precedence over Heidi’s knowledge that horses have four legs.’ Such persuasive insights mark nearly all of Fein’s captions.

Heidi’s Horse is a rational treatment of a subject that normally occasions nonsense. There’s none of the romantic humanism which gushes indiscriminately over children’s art because it is children’s art. The standard, invariably undefined vocabulary of the romantics – spontaneity, sensory experience, self-expression – crops up rarely if at all. Heidi solves artistic problems only through a continual give-and-take between heart and head, feeling and idea, pencil and eraser.

Fein also wastes none of our time with psycho-babble. The temptation to detect complexes in Heidi’s compulsion must have been great. But even when Heidi decides for a time that she actually is a horse, the author does not make too much of it. (One animal adorns a card Heidi made for her mother; the greeting reads, “to mom from Heidi Horse...That’s me.”)

A message for teachers lies in all this.

James Morrow, Director of the Institute
for Multimedia Learning

Eliseo Vivas

A distinguished painter has made a most original contribution in a work difficult to classify...powerfully absorbing in the way the child’s grasp of the visual whole becomes more firm. The book is a feast for the eyes. There is something ineffably engaging, utterly simpatico about the drawings and analysis.

Eliseo Vivas, Professor of Philosophy,
author of Creation and Discovery, The Artistic Transaction
and co-editor of The Problems of Aesthetics

American Journal of Art Therapy

“Unusual...sustained study of an individual over 15 years of greatest growth and change.”

Elizabeth S. Pierce, Art therapist-resource teacher working with mentally retarded children

Library Journal

“This is a remarkable collection...A valuable contribution to epistemology and an affirmation of the role played by active participation in the visual arts towards the intellectual and aesthetic development of children.”

Joseph H. DiLeo, M.D., Director Development Clinic, New York Foundling Hospital

Child Development Abstracts and Bibliography

“The collection is rich. Fein has judiciously avoided interpretive comments, letting the horse, for the most part, do the talking. For cognitive developmentalists, the sequence may be rich in illustration. For others, it is simply an interesting book to enjoy. It is a happy book about a happy horse drawn by an alert child. A favorite picture is 8 year 4 month Heidi’s drawing of a large full-frontal face of a wide-eyed horse with an inscription that reads, “Hi, im a horse.”

Hoben Thomas, Editor, A Publication of the
Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.,
Dept. of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

Children Today

“...A joyous, thoughtful record of intellectual and aesthetic development of a child...While her drawings are highly individual, they also confirm the universality of man’s need to record his feelings and observations. Heidi’s Horse shows a continuous, disciplined evolution, and offers a base for all the professions in the study of human learning and expression...a valid and analytical contribution to the literature...”

U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
Office of Human Development Services
Clara Jo Stember, Adjunct Assistant, Professor of Art
Therapy, College of New Rochelle, NY

Oakland Tribune

“Scores of drawings...arranged by the sequential achievements they present: triumphs over proportion, overlapping, profile, elaborate accessories, emotional attribution, shading, contour lines and lighting effects...Heidi’s horses alternate between greater abstraction and greater realism. This reminds us that neither of these extremes is more sophisticated or more basic than the other: the cave drawings at Lascaux include examples of both.”

Charles Shere, Art Critic

Die Gestalt

“The surprisingly clear and lively process of the child’s artistic development in a way not seen before. The commentary is sensitive and gentle, and without the pretensions of specialism.” (translated)

Hans Herrmann, Editor and Publisher

Curriculum Review

“The pictures, beautifully reproduced in black and white on large 10 by 12 how to observe and evaluate a child’s work at each age...Heidi repeatedly travels a cycle of discovery, experiment, struggle, correction, exaggeration, and mastery...her horses get bodies, longer legs, oval heads; they begin to walk, run, jump and carry riders. At 8 years she begins to tackle the problems of showing third dimension and perspective; at 10 she concentrates on mood and personality; at 12, spatial quality of lines and delicate detail become important. And by 16, her horses seem to come alive ; they have spirit and an enormous feeling of motion in the freely-flowing lines. At one-third of the way through the book, at two-thirds, and again near the end, the author summarizes progress...”

Claire Naisbitt, Program for the Socially Maladjusted,
Evergreen Park High School, Chicago, Illinois

School Arts

“...Beautiful new publication...from cover to cover it’s filled with pure joy. You follow Heidi’s maturing ability to observe data, organize reactions and give them graphic expression. While this is a record of one child’s development, the illustrations also offer profound insight into children on a universal of educational mumbo-jumbo...”

Burton Wasserman, Professor of Art
Glassboro State College, NJ

Children’s House

“A highly unusual, well designed visual history... a valuable pedagogical tool for anyone in the field of psychology, art therapy or pediatrics...Parents too can gain a great deal.”

New Age

“A unique and marvelous book. For teachers, artists, parents, and children, this one is highly recommended.”

Brain Mind Bulletin

“True to promise, the drawings tell how children ‘proceed to learn’...From stick figures to boxy structures to moving, graceful animals, a graphic odyssey of growth, a journey by a sensitive annotator who is also a distinguished artist....An extra-ordinary insight into the unfolding of the human mind...and testimony to the unique vision of the individual.

BACK to Books by Sylvia Fein Page