Written by Lois Szymanski with Pam Emge
Illustrated by Linda Kantjas
Fifth grade readers who are enthralled with horses will be captivated by this photo essay of the “wild” horses of Assateague Island. Chincoteague Ponies: Untold Tails pairs over 200 photos, oil paintings and brief stories of individual ponies to illustrate their life in a scenic yet rugged environment.
While the specific vocabulary and sentence structure of this book indicate a much higher reading level, readers on the fifth grade level will grasp most of the concepts presented. The design and non-sequential nature of the book lends itself to browsing and many readers will become so engrossed in the photos that they skip the text and lengthy introduction altogether. If read straight through, the text presents a loose narrative by presenting an overview of the history and culture surrounding the ponies and round-ups, then introducing the stallions and the mares, followed by the action of the round-ups, and concluding with hints of fall and winter.
Both full page and full spread photographs of individuals and groups of ponies with an array of scenery are included as well as full-page oil paintings of individual horses. The pairing of a photograph and an oil painting of the same pony will allow teachers to help students compare and contrast and consider the advantages of each medium. In some cases, the photo is stronger, in others, the painting. Kantjas’ love of the ponies is obvious and the time and dedication put forth are evident by the vast number and diversity of illustrations.
The text includes snippets of information about the ecosystem and history of the island but focuses on individual stories. It names and renames individual ponies, tracing their lineage. It chronicles the efforts of the Chincoteague Fire Department to care for and maintain the herd. This book provides insight into people who support the effort and purchase the ponies through buy-back program. It would be a wonderful accompaniment to any trip to the island.
For teachers interested in supporting the Common Core State Standards in Language Arts, this book provides an ideal informational text to pair with the fictional Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Avid fans of the ponies can find more information at (http://www.chincoteague.com/ponies-by-name.html) and (http://www.pony-chincoteague.com/).