Snow Ponies

January 10, 2009

The illustrations created by Jason Cockcroft caught my eyes.  (I also admire horses and am awestruck by their beauty.)

Snow Ponies by Cynthia Cotten is a metaphoric narrative that makes the reader ponder.  Prior to this writing, I have read, reread, put it away, reread and pondered about this book.  Although the symbolism of the changing winter season is clear, I kept being “stumped” about what to write about.  The language in this book drew me in each time that I felt I needed to share.

Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader–not the fact that it’s raining, but the feel of being rained upon.
– E.L. Doctorow (found on Cynthia Cotton’s website, under her writing quotes)

I finally showed the book to my eleven year old daughter and asked what she thought about the book.  Through my discussion with her, my wonderings and questions, I was able to finally process the text.  Her new perspective and our sharing discussion made my writerly-eyes become focused… and my understanding deepen.  A lesson learned!!

Our students need time to process.  Conversations about a text is so crucial for children to go deeper into their comprehension.  But I also think it has to do with returning to a familiar text.  With rereadings, deeper meaning arises.

Jason Cockcroft illustrates “Old Man Winter” as a wilderness, rugged, white-haired gentleman.  My daughter, E, immediately exclaimed, “He looks like Santa Claus in work clothes.”  It made sense.

Cynthia Cottenscripts her mind’s eye of how snow storms blankets the wintery setting.  Old Man Winter sends his snow ponies out to romp.  “Their feet make no sound on the cold, hard ground, and whatever they touch turns white.”

Savorings for reading and in writing for Snow Ponies:

  • Symbolism – Old Man Winter for the season change and weather
  • Alliteration – “Their whinnies and whickers whistle through the trees.”
  • Science – hibernation and changing of a season
  • Author’s dedication – “… for James Ashcraft, the first teacher ever to make me rewrite something – now I know why.”
  • “Paced” action – I’m not sure what to call this craft, but the author chooses her words to create a mood like music, a symphony of word notes.

The snow ponies “toss their heads and paw the floor” –> “Faster and faster they go, manes flying” –> “In their flurry…” –> “Flakes fly off branches…”  “Wilder and wilder their play becomes” –> “At last the snow ponies begin to tire.”  –> “shake their heads, shuffle their feet, and sigh long sleepy sighs.”  –> “…and slowly, slowly nod off to sleep.”