Primary Genre(s): Children’s Picture Book
Published: 1 May 1996 by Annick Press
My Format: ebook via Overdrive
Ending: Dark, but satisfying
Would I recommend it: Probably not
Commission Link: Buy Stephanie’s Ponytail
My rating: ★★☆☆☆
Synopsis from Goodreads
None of the kids in her class wear a ponytail, so Stephanie decides she must have one. The loud, unanimous comment from her classmates is: “Ugly, ugly, very ugly.” Steadfast, when all the girls have copied her ponytail, she resolves to try a new style. With true Munsch flair, each of Stephanie’s ponytails is more outrageous than the last, while the cast of copycats grows and grows.
This is my fourth Munsch children’s book review this month… and sadly I think it will be my last. I have previously reviewed, The Paper Bag Princess, Something Good, and Thomas’ Snowsuit and each book has gotten progressively worse in my opinion. Today’s book is just okay and honestly it is a little confusing to me. Spoilers ahead… it is hard to review a picture book without revealing plot details. Here are my pros and cons for Stephanie’s Ponytail:
- The ponytail varieties are funny (back, side, and even front ponytails). It is particularly funny when the entire school decides to wear Stephanie’s ponytail style, including some teachers! The illustrations (by Michael Martchenko) definitely enhance the humor of the crazy hair.
- It was oddly satisfying (albeit quite mean) when Stephanie tricks everyone into shaving their heads at the end of the story.
- I’m honestly confused about what this book is about. Is it about Stephanie wanting to express her individualism by trying to find a unique hairstyle? Or is it about Stephanie being selfish? Or is it about copy-cats? Or is it about bullying (because you could argue that both Stephanie and her classmates are bullying each other)? And why would her classmates say her ponytails are “ugly, ugly, very ugly” and then wear the style themselves the next day? Are they copying her to make fun of her or because they like the hairstyle? And if they like the hairstyle, why would they tell Stephanie it is ugly? Why wouldn’t Stephanie be flattered that they liked her hairstyle so much they want to wear it themselves? I DON’T GET IT!?!?!?!?! Am I missing something?
- Stephanie gets unreasonably mad and kind of rude when others copy her hairstyles. It seemed like an extreme reaction, particularly since I don’t have any clue what her motivation is.
- I never like to see bullying depicted like this in books, and Stephanie was as much of a culprit as her classmates.
- While I thought the ending was darkly comical as an adult, I wouldn’t want children to think a prank like that was an appropriate reaction to feelings of frustration and anger because people are copying their hairstyle!
I have come to the conclusion that Munsch books aren’t for me. I was not familiar with these books when I was younger (I was 9 when the first books came out) so they were out of my reading range by the time they hit the shelves. If I am honest though, I probably would have found these books amusing as a very young reader. They are bright, colorful, and silly… and the kid always wins! What is not to like, right? However, as an adult in 2020, I am seeing nothing but bad situations and negative reactions in these books with no lesson for the reader of any kind. Perhaps I am just being old and crotchety, but I’d prefer it if my grandkids read books that end with a positive lesson rather than successful retaliation or a reward for inappropriate actions and behavior.
I probably won’t be reading and reviewing any other Munsch books unless someone recommends one to me specifically that they loved.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy Stephanie’s Ponytail. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)