Over and Under the Pond
Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal
In this follow-up to Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt we join a mother and child as they take an evening row across the pond :‘Over the pond we slide, splashing through lily pads, sweeping through reeds.’ The boy narrates using a beautifully attentive, almost meditative voice that immediately connects us to the watery setting: ‘The water’s a mirror, reflecting the sky, /Sunshine and clouds – then a shadow below.’
Unhurriedly, the pond reveals its riches, both hidden and more clearly visible, as the two people in their craft skim, ‘lift and dart and pull past a row of painted turtles on a waterlogged tree‘ …
On they go, with occasional help from the wind, passing a great blue heron about to dive for minnows, a woodpecker clinging to a ‘teetering pine, digging for ants.’;
dragonflies skim the water’s surface below which dragonfly larvae seize passing minnows in their jaws. How skilfully, occasionally using onomatopoeic phrases such as ‘splash – gurgle – splosh!’ ‘to heighten the dramatic effect, author, Kate Messner, reflects that way young children can be ‘in the moment’ excluding all else as they immerse themselves in the here and now.
Gradually the shadows engulf the scene as dusky darkness falls over the pond and it’s time to return ‘swish – bump!’ to the shore and home, leaving nature still watching and waiting …
Neal’s richly hued, mixed media illustrations show us the pond from every possible perspective both above and below causing readers, like the rowers, to pause and linger over every scene, taking in its stark beauty.
In the final spreads, the author provides notes about some of the fauna inhabiting the pond, especially useful for readers in the UK who may not be familiar with all of them. A book to inspire, enthuse and send readers (accompanied by an adult) out into the wonderful natural world to find out for themselves what lies Over and Under the Pond.