Cynthia Cotten, Virginia Childrens Author, fiction and poetry

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Cover art copyright
Jason Cockcroft 2001

Snow Ponies is a picture book about a snow storm, imagining Old Man Winter letting his snow ponies out of the barn for a day's romp.

Background: Cynthia Cotten is a full-time writer living in Northern Virginia. She loves horses and hates snow. Her strong feelings about both these things combined to create this story about ponies who make the snow fall.

(Reading and Language):

Vocabulary: define words students might not be familiar with, such as romp, jostling, canter, whicker and thicket. Have students come up with synonyms for these words and read them in the sentences they appear in. Why did the author choose the words she did instead of one of these synonyms?

Discuss images and why an author uses them. Discuss the images the author uses in the story. Examples: "in a flurry, the ponies canter and call"; "back to the barn they drift"; they "flow out of the pen". Have the students create original images, using other animals that might create the same kinds of feelings.

Wh-word questions: Talk about wh-words: who, what, when, where, why. "Who" questions are answered by people; "why" questions are reasons, etc. Have students formulate "wh-" questions related to the story.

Writing Activities:

In Snow Ponies, it's the ponies' play that makes the snow fall. Write a story or a poem about what else might make it snow.

Write a story about another animal in winter.

Imagine that this story is fact, not fiction. Write a newspaper article telling about it.

Write about what the ponies do in other seasons. Are they just regular ponies, or is there some way they are still special?


Discuss winter behavior of different animals (hibernation, protective coloration, migration).

Discuss winter. What is snow? Why does it fall? What makes it stop?

Discuss snowflakes--look at pictures of them magnified. Talk about Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, the first person to photograph snowflakes.

Study horses. What might real horses do in the snow and wind?

Critical Thinking:

Why do you think the author named the ponies' owner "Old Man Winter"?

Why do you think Old Man Winter is smiling at the end of the story?

Why do you think the author used ponies to tell the story?

Read some other stories about winter. Discuss the different ways the different authors portray winter and what happens.

Social Studies/Economics:

Discuss where the different animals in the story live.

Discuss winter in different parts of the world. Is it the same everywhere? Does it happen at the same time everywhere (northern and southern hemispheres)?

Discuss what kinds of things people do in winter (work; play). What do you like to do in winter?

What other natural phenomena could you explain by using animals?


Learn how to fold paper and cut snowflake designs. Use different kinds of paper.

Decorate with glitter.

Draw a pony, or find a picture of one in a magazine. Glue cotton balls on the ground to look like snow.

Study other artists who have used snow or winter as a subject.

Draw a picture of the Snow Ponies' forest and fields in other seasons.

Bulletin Board Ideas:

Display some of the students' snow pictures.

Make a mural of the story.

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