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Multicultural Literature
The Mud Pony: A Traditional Skidi Pawnee Tale
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My Name is Maria Isabel
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The Great Ball Game
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The Mud Pony: A Traditional Skidi Pawnee Tale
Jingle Dancer
The Name Jar
Tree of Cranes
Good Luck Gold: And Other Poems
The Magic Paintbrush
Habibi
Ella Enchanted
Silent Lotus
Real Heroes

Cohen, Caron Lee.  1991.  The mud pony: A traditional Skidi
     Pawnee tale.  Illustrated by Shonto Begay.  New York: Scholastic
     Inc.  ISBN: 0590415263.

 

          Identified as a Pawnee Indian tale, the acknowledgments in the beginning explain that this is one of a number of ancient boy-hero stories.  It is the story of a boy too poor to own his own pony so he creates one from river mud.  Every day he cares for this pony but one day his tribe breaks camp and leaves to search out buffalo.

          All alone, the boy falls asleep and dreams that his pony comes to life reassuring him that he is not alone. “Mother Earth has given me to you.  I am a part of her” (Cohen).  The pony guides him back to the tribe and into a fierce battle.  Trembling and afraid, the pony tells the boy to cover himself with earth because arrows cannot pierce the earth.  After defeating the enemy and capturing more buffalo than the adult men, the boy grows into a powerful leader guided by his magical pony.  At last the pony must return to Mother Earth with these words, “I am here, your Mother Earth. You are not alone” (Cohen).

          The illustrator, Shonto Begay, is a member of the Navajo tribe.  He says he learned from his elders that Nature is life and gives and maintains life.  Begay says his “art is created from my heart and from the earth.  It is my truth” (Begay 1997).  The artist used colored pencils and muted watercolors with a spatter technique to create action and a mystical effect.  Many details give the illustrations authenticity including the native clothing, bear-claw necklaces and arm jewelry, feathers, tepees, blankets, Indian designs drawn onto clothing and moccasins.  Care is taken in representing the look of the Pawnee natives through facial features and hairstyles.   The scenes have a flat perspective and many illustrations resemble the artwork found on walls or tepees.

          With spare text, the author evokes the Pawnee belief that “no matter how lowly one’s origin, the path to honor is open through adherence to virtues such as constancy and a humble spirit” (Cohen).  The “symbolic use of Mother Earth is characteristic of this tribe who lived in dome-shaped earth lodges” (SLJ).  The author depicts tribal life using some native language and descriptions of foods (soup and dried beef) and eating implements such as buffalo horn spoons.  It is understood through the illustrations and writing that the boy's family loves him and the tribe respects his wisdom.  The Mud Pony was a Reading Rainbow Selection.

Radtke, Karen K.  School Library Journal.  Available from http://www.amazon.com.
     Accessed 12 July 04.
 
The Internet Public Library.  1997.  Shonto Begay.  Available from