Stephanie’s Ponytail, Story by Robert Munsch, Art by Michael Matchenko.
Robert Munsch is a Canadian storyteller and Stephanie’s Ponytail is one of his wonderful stories. The book can be read by children in the 5-8 age group while younger ones will love to listen to the amusing story bordering on silliness. However, it is amazing how such a hilarious tale can stem out of an issue of immense sensitivity and concern among young and older children. The crux of the book is peer pressure and individualism. Or simply put, not trying to copy others but to try and be thyself in a crowd.
Stephanie is a school going kid who wants to be different. Realizing that none of her classmates have a pony tail she chooses to go to class with one at the back of her head. Although the other kids initially ridicule her, they finally end up imitating her, tying up their own hair just like hers. Irritated, Stephanie appears with a pony tail on the side the next day. It does not take long for the entire gang to now come up with pony tails on their sides.The cycle repeats in the ensuing days with an annoyed Stephanie doing differently positioned ponytails every day and her peers succumbing to the trend. The story takes a twist when Stephanie, one morning, announces her intent to shave her head! Accustomed to blindly copying Stephanie, the class tries to turn it up a notch. The next morning the kids appear like tonsured monks awaiting the arrival of a bald Stephanie. But smart Stephanie turns up with a nice jolly little pony tail at the back of her head! The hilarious climax is topped off with an angry mob running behind a beaming Stephanie!!!
I confess I have not done justice to the narration. However, I will try my best to peel off the layers of the story to unravel what it offers for children and parents.
First off, it has the potential to cater to a broad age spectrum. Secondly, humor and wit are probably the best vehicles to drive home a message. The portrayal of the persona of Stephanie deserves special mention – daring, fearless, individualistic, creative, assertive and trendsetting. This is revealed through the numerous occasions when she remains unstirred by peer criticism and childish mockery. This can be a valuable attribute to cultivate in kids. An equally important lesson is more moralistic – the decline of the copy cat empire! Neatly wrapping up the package are the illustrations, guaranteed to make children and parents guffaw!
A word of caution about the language in a few places, when the kids can seem to come off too hard on Stephanie and a rebellious Stephanie yelling back. It can become a non-issue by masking it with creative substitutes for the pristine listener. This of course is very subjective, just a heads up for you to flip through the pages before you pick it up.
This book was a rewarding find for me to read to my preschooler who is more of a follower than a leader amongst her peers. The girly subject of pony tails sure hit the spot with the female pre-wiring, in her case:)
The perfect book for the ready-to-ape school-goer.