By Jim LaMarche. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2016. 40 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.
Pond is a picture-story book for school-age children about habitat restoration set in the upper Midwest or Northeast. Matt discovers a spring in an area known as “the pit.” His sister, Katie, and their friend Pablo join him in cleaning out the pit and building a dam to form a shallow pond. The three children do most of the work themselves with technical assistance from their fathers, particularly in rehabilitating an old rowboat.
Katie’s field guides help them appreciate the wildlife attracted as their pond slowly fills. We follow the pond makers through the summer to their end-of-summer camp out. The pond becomes a Goose Hotel during the fall. During the winter, they invite neighborhood children to skate on the frozen surface. When spring returns, they discover that the blue quartz stone Pablo found while they were making the pond is the same shape as the filled pond: a heart.
Pablo returns the stone to the pond by skipping it across the surface. As the three children then sit quietly, a curious thing happens. Animals that had visited the pond during the year gather, and “Without any noise we watched one another for a long time, and then slowly they walked or swam away and went back to their homes.” That sounds like a meeting for worship. Jim LaMarche shows us these children caring for the natural world with a sense of joy and discovery.
The illustrations are exquisite watercolors, one a wordless double-page spread in the middle, something not often found in narrative books. We recommend Pond to families, elementary schools, and religious education programs. It makes a good companion to The Raft, LaMarche’s earlier book about one boy’s unexpected summer in the Wisconsin woods. LaMarche has also illustrated books we like by many other authors, particularly A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley.