Author: Jim LaMarche
Age Range: 5-8
Pond by Jim LaMarche is a gentle celebration of nature and friendship. A boy discovers water bubbling up from the ground in the woods, in an area that he has always called "the Pit." He gets the idea that the Pit was once a pond, and enlists his sister Katie and his best friend Pablo to help him nurse the pond back to health. They clean up trash, build a dam, and are rewarded by a gradually expanding body of water. Their dad, who recalls an earlier version of the pond, helps out, too.
Eventually the pond becomes a resource for animals and the community. A sub-plot involves a heart-shaped quartz that Pablo discovers, which becomes something of a talisman for the kids, and involves a hint of magical realism at the end.
LaMarche sprinkles in a few facts about nature, like the fact that barn swallows eat mosquitos, but keeps everything closely tied to the story. (e.g. The kids are excited about the barn swallows because they've been pestered by mosquitos.) When geese start coming to the pond the boy wants to feed them bread, but "Miss Know-it-all Katie" says not to, because of what she read in a book.
Pond is fairly text dense. I actually felt like the text could have been pruned back a little, particularly LaMarche's occasional use of adverbs. Here's an example:
"All right, let's get to work!" said Dad.
The day before, we had dragged the old wooden boat into the pond. It had started leaking immediately. At dinner we had told Dad about the boat.
"I can't believe it's still there," he had said quietly. "Let's see what we can do in the morning."
As Dad patched and puttied the holes and cracks, Pablo sanded out the slivers and I nailed down all the loose boards. Katie painted a dragonfly on the bow. "We'll call it the Dragonfly," she said.
The "quietly" might not have bothered me, but then Katie says something "quietly" later in the book, and I was faintly irritated. But that's all ok, because it's LaMarche's nature-toned acrylic, colored pencil and opaque ink illustrations that dominate every page. Everything is textured, from the kids' skin and hair to the grasses and rowboat. Sunset colors make many of the pages glow.
My favorite page spread is one in the middle of the book where there is no text, and we see Katie rowing the boat, Matt floating on an inflatable mattress, and Pablo standing in the water with a bucket. There are birds and other animals, lily pads, and just a strong feeling of summer. We don't even see the sky - the pond is the backdrop for the entire page. For me, these illustrations brought back childhood visits to ponds and the woods, both real and imagined through books. The ending of Pond is sure to leave readers with a warm glow.
Pond is a gorgeous ode to the natural world, as well as a subtle love song to family and community. While a bit text dense for group storytime, itcertainly belongs in libraries and would make a nice addition to a nature-themed display. I look forward to reading it with my daughter. I think it will make her want to get outside with her friends. Recommended.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (@SimonKids)
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).