cover image Pony Island

Pony Island

Candice F. Ransom, , illus. by Wade Zahares. . Walker, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8088-1

Declarative, rhyming phrases accompany striking illustrations in tribute to the enigmatic Chincoteague ponies that live off the Virginia coast. While several explanations for the ponies’ presence on the island of Assateague are offered in legends, Ransom (Tractor & Company ) presents one of the more dramatic: a Spanish shipwreck. “Big ship wrecks./ Stormy sea./ Cargo horses/ Swimming free.” Accentuated by storm light, the ponies meld into the sharp peaks of the waves with an eerie green glow as they struggle for the shore. Across a narrow channel from where they land a seaside town grows over time, smudgy pastels by Zahares (Lucky Jake ) suggesting an Impressionist landscape. After a fire, the human settlers must raise money for a new fire truck, and cowboys round up the ponies for auction. Lit by the flaming red sunset, the ponies have a regal demeanor as they “race through town.” With the money raised, the town purchases a “shiny engine,” and the crowd cheers, “Bring back ponies/ Every year!” A parting image shows the ponies galloping on the beach, “wild and free,” at sunrise. Lovely. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)