Friday, November 27, 2009


From the time I was very young, I loved , loved, loved horses. Despite the fact that we lived right smack in the middle of the city, I wanted a horse more than anything. I took horseback riding lessons on the old tired trail animals at Mark Reyner's riding stable, collected horses and horse memorabilia, and read every horse book I could get my hands on. Two of my absolute favorites were MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE and STORMY, MISTY'S FOAL by Marguerite Henry.

This week, reading through the stack of CYBILS nominees, I came across PONY ISLAND by Candice F. Ransom. PONY ISLAND tells the stories of the Chincoteague ponies in verse. Listen to a couple of pages:
Big ship wrecks.
Stormy sea.
Cargo horses.
Swimming free
Swim the channel,
Noses high.
Ponies dripping.
Crowds stand by.
Morning sunrise
By the sea
Ponies gallop
Wild and free.

According to an author's note, the ponies actually live on the island of Assateague. There are various stories about how they got there- some believe they were castaways from a Spanish shipwreck, others think farmers moved them there to avoid paying taxes. However the ponies came to the island, they have been there a long, long time. Since 1925, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department has a pony roundup once a year. They swim the ponies across the channel from Assateague to Chincoteague. The pony auction and carnival raise money for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. Each year, more than 75,000 people flock to the island to watch the ponies make their five minute swim. After the event is over, the ponies return to Assateague, where they run wild for another year. (For the animal lovers in the crowd, the fire department feeds and cares for the ponies throughout the winter, and they are checked by a veterinarian several times throughout the year).

Ransom has done a terrific job capturing this historic event in rhyming poetry. Equally wonderful, however, are Wade Zaharas' beautiful illustrations. Bold, vivid oil paintings, with lots of interesting use of line and shadow. The end pages feature the island at dawn or dusk, and are pretty and quiet and peaceful. Other pages, like the page where the ship wrecks, or where the ponies run through the village, are bold and action packed. I think kids will want to go back and look again and again; I know I sure did.

POETRY FRIDAY is at Becky's Book Reviews.

1 comment:

Mary Lee said...

This sounds like a GREAT book! So many horse lovers in the 4th grade every year...and when I was a kid, I didn't just want a horse, I wanted to BE one!!!