Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa

I have a pony lover at my house. Because of that, I have endured countless hours of My Little Pony books and videos. As books go, My Little Pony isn't going to win the Caldecott Medal any time soon. It might win the Fast Pass to a Headache Award, or maybe the Crushingly Boring Medal, but great literature it ain't.

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, by Erica Silverman, has been a lifesaver in a world otherwise populated with pink and purple ponies that all have hair like Pamela Anderson.

This is a nice little series that works well as either read-aloud books or as early chapter books for emerging readers. It's on a par with Henry and Mudge or Mr. Putter and Tabby -- short line lengths, easier but not babyish vocabulary, lots of colorful pictures. Each book is broken into 4 chapters and the situations the characters deal with are on a fairly simple order.

What I like about these books is the character of Cocoa, Cowgirl Kate's horse. He's miffy, a little selfish, always hungry, prone to misunderstanding and just generally kind of a pill. My 3 year old daughter loves him and even my 6 year old son laughed at some of his antics when I was reading aloud one day (he says he didn't but I heard him giggle).

The illustrations are so nice -- bright and fun. You may recognize the style: Betsy Lewin has also illustrated Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type and the Duck books that it spawned (Giggle Giggle Quack, Duck for President, etc.) She lends a nice touch of whimsy to the books.

The situations have a nice balance of friendship and humor and respect. In Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Partners, Cocoa doesn't want new horseshoes. He'd rather have cowboy boots like Cowgirl Kate. She patiently lets him try on one of her boots until he admits it doesn't fit. Later in the same book, Cowgirl Kate has to coax Cocoa (say that three times fast!) into doing their chores, reminding them that they are partners and must stick together. When he splashes into the pond with her after their work is done, she says "Couldn't you go swimming without me?" and he reminds her that they are partners "through wet and dry." It's sweet, but with a light touch.

It's a lovely series that makes a welcome change from the sugary world of the pastel ponies. The stories have actual content, rather than mindless activity (read enough MLP books and you will know what I mean). This one is good as a read-aloud from about age 3 and up, though I think you could go younger if you had a real horse lover. It should be good as an early chapter book through age 6 and possibly through age 7 (Second Grade) depending on your reader. It should be readily available at your library or in paperback through your favorite bookseller.

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