3 out of 4 stars
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Annette Ilowiecki was in elementary school when she first heard about the Chincoteague ponies. Her teacher introduced them through the book Misty of Chincoteague. Annette immediately told her mom, Peg Cook, that she wanted to see those ponies. Finally, in 2016, Annette and Peg were able to meet the ponies of their dreams when they visited Chincoteague, Virginia. The two even watched a concert by the Three Sheets, a trio known for singing songs about the area. However, the trio’s repertoire did not have anything about the horses. Back home, Annette and Peg wrote a poem about those enchanting wild horses that they had fallen in love with. The poem “Don’t They Just Set You to Dreaming?” was born. They sent the poem to R. Owen Hooks, a member of the Three Sheets, hoping for him to make the poem a song. After some waiting, the song “Don’t They Just Set You to Dreaming?” was born. On March 17, 2018, with Peg and Annette in attendance, the song made its debut before a live audience. Still unsatisfied, Peg and Annette felt they had to do more for the horses. Thus, the book Don’t They Just Set You to Dreaming? was born.
This is a book about the horses, but it is also about dreams coming true. The book’s full title is Don’t They Just Set You to Dreaming?: A Story-Song Tribute to the Wild Ponies of Chincoteague. It showcases those famous horses in more than fifty fascinating photographs inserted between the lines of the poem-song. The poem itself is remarkable, packing a lot of information about the horses’ history and various activities in just a few rhyming verses. The mother-and-daughter team’s passion for those horses is palpable and infectious. They call it “pony fever.”
I am a fan of Dick Francis, a champion jockey who became a bestselling author and whose books invariably featured equines. I was excited to see the Chincoteague horses, albeit only in pictures. The pictures matched the verses to perfection. My favorite picture showed several horses peacefully “grazing in the salt marsh” amidst a beautiful backdrop of tall trees. Horse lovers of all ages, including children dreaming of riding their own ponies, will surely delight in the book. Maybe some will even be inspired to visit Chincoteague to watch those wild ponies strut their stuff. They may even bring a pony back home!
Annette and Peg wrote this very charming story to satisfy both “dreamer and realist.” Despite the book’s few pages, just 36 in all, I believe they achieved their purpose. There may be a need for a little fine-tuning, though. I found some errors, mostly pertaining to capitalization, but they would be easy to weed out.
Intrigued by the horses, I researched more about them. Perhaps the book could have a page about the legend of how the horses arrived at Chincoteague. Another welcome inclusion would be a link to the song. The authors may also consider a song sheet with guitar chords or piano notes.
The book will be a great souvenir for tourists flocking to Chincoteague. It will also be a proud addition to the libraries of families in Virginia. Considering the wonderful experience I had with the book, I give it 3 out of 4 stars. The errors would account for the missed star. I am sure that Annette and Peg would lasso that elusive star; they have the uncanny talent for fulfilling dreams.
Don't They Just Set You To Dreaming?
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