12 Days of Holiday Gift Suggestions: Day 8
Day 8 of our 12 Days of Holiday Gift Suggestions is from Tim. This middle grade novel would be a great choice for kids 9-14 and for families or classrooms to read together.
There is no greater joy than picking up a new book without knowing much about it and being suddenly transported to a new world. This is what I felt after reading The Winter Pony by Iain Lawrence. This middle-grade novel, set in 1910-11, reads like a classic adventure story and is a rousing chronicle of explorer Robert Scott and his team’s fateful quest to become the first to reach the South Pole. There have been many accounts of Scott’s voyage and trek over the harsh Antarctica ice, but this is the first told from the point of view of one of 20 Siberian ponies accompanying Scott’s team. Scott named this pony, James Pigg, after one of his former shipmates, and Pigg not only gives us a first-hand account of the day-to-day challenges and treacherous conditions the men encountered on their historic journey, but also the plight of the dozens of dogs and ponies that pulled the heavy sledges over dangerous crevasses and endured sub-zero temperatures. Most of the animals and many of the men did not survive the journey before Scott’s team finally reached the South Pole on January 17, 2011, one month after Roald Amundsen and his team planted their flag on the site.
The story works on so many levels, the obvious being is that it is based on real-life events, but what I think sets it apart is that the narrative creates an almost virtual-reality experience for the reader. The book is first and foremost an adventure, but what I loved most about the book is the focus on what the animals–and let us not mince word–“beasts of burden” had to endure not by choice. So many books have been written about casualties of war and ill-planned explorations, but seldom do we hear about the tens of thousands of horses and other animals in service to men dying for the cause. I applaud the author for giving us the equine point of view of the sacrifices of all members of Scott’s team!
This month and next, expect to see lots of articles about Scott’s South Pole expedition as we approach the 100th anniversary on January 17th. The move and book “War Horse”, about WW1 heroics of another horse are also garnering lots of attention. This is a perfect time to introduce young readers to a worthy companion, WINTER PONY.
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