Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Season of Ponies

Title: Season of Ponies
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Date: 1964
Publisher: Atheneum
ISBN: none (click here to find a newer edition on Amazon)
Length: 133 pages
Illustrations: watercolors by Alton Raible
Quote: “Give the searching heart an eye, and magic fills a summer’s sky.”
Pamela would rather travel with her father, a salesman, than live with her Aunt Sarah on a failing farm where the only horses left are the model horses on Pamela’s bookshelves. Guess where she has to spend the summer anyway. But she meets a mysterious boy whose only family seems to be a herd of strange-looking, slim, dainty, odd-colored ponies. He lives in fear of a wicked witch, the Pig Woman, who sings a terribly beautiful song that causes males of all species to give up their free will and turn into pigs. These pigs are as different from any real pigs you may know as the Ponyboy’s ponies are from real ponies, but the Ponyboy’s magic doesn’t turn Pamela into a pony, as seems indicated. He only needs her energy to help him resist the Pig Woman.
All fairy tales have to get their inspiration somewhere. This one, which seems most closely related to the myth of Circe on the surface, really taps into the early 1960s fear that women who made decisions for themselves would “lose their femininity” and make bad decisions.
At the same time, it’s still a simple but well-written fantasy. You’ll wonder whether the real Zilpha Keatley Snyder ever had a real pony, but you’ll love her glass and china ponies come to life.
What about the innocence of Pamela’s sneaking off alone to meet the Ponyboy? This was heady stuff in the 1960s. Some parents wanted to believe that preadolescent children were too innocent to be in any danger. Some would say that, the more innocent children are when they sneak off to be alone with just one other child, the worse the results might be.
Maybe, although this fantasy was written to entertain third and fourth grade readers, it’s best enjoyed by adults. The misogyny may be too toxic, and the children may be undesirable role models, for children. And yet...when I was about the age of Pamela, I enjoyed this book, just for the delightful fantasy ponies. And it did not cause me to sneak around with boys, or turn anybody into a pig.

At the time when I wrote this review, Season of Ponies would have been a Fair Trade Book. I had the first hardcover edition, too. Together with a Gena Greene Recycled doll dressed like Pamela, it sold for $5. I hope the person who bought that copy of the book checks out the current price of the first hardcover edition on Amazon. You got a real bargain. In order to keep things real at this web site, what I can now offer to sell online will be a recent paperback reprint, $5 + $5 shipping, and if you find a better price, go for it. Zilpha Keatley Snyder no longer needs a dollar.