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Monday, January 16, 2017

Pond, written and illustrated by Jim LaMarche.Simon & Schuster, 2016. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"The pond filled slowly as the warm spring days passed. Wherever we found a leak we plugged it with more rocks and branches and muddy grasses. As we waited, Pablo practiced his music and Katie read to us about the new birds ... "

I could not even get to the text of this new book by Jim LaMarche before poring over its magnificent illustrations. I have always had great admiration for his work and the impact it has on the children with whom I share his books. He manages to capture place, time and characters in realistic spreads that speak to the experience of children and adults alike.

In this book about seasons and habitat, he creates an almost magical place with his acrylics, colored pencils and opaque inks. It is an exploration of the ways in which young children can make a difference to their surroundings, and it concerns three explorers. Matt makes the initial discovery that the place they have always called "the Pit" is much more that. That realization leads him to enlist the help of his sister Katie and his friend Pablo in working to make things different.

The focus is always on the pond, and the hard work it takes to make it a place that can be enjoyed in every season. Before the pond begins to fill once again, the three work tirelessly. They know it will be worthwhile. With time it becomes evident that they have done what needs to be done for the pond to provide a verdant place of discovery and recreation.

They collect natural treasures, read about the many creatures who find shelter and food there, and share their many discoveries. They also must deal with annoying insects, changing weather, and even threatening rainstorms. They find and refurbish an old rowboat which provides endless enjoyment. They enjoy the changes a new season brings.

I particularly love the bird's-eye view of the children basking in the beauty of this idyllic place. It is sure to make every reader want to find a place there, too. The gentle message is that the nature that surrounds us can replenish itself if it has the chance ... that is a very hopeful feeling to have when you want to make your own small difference in this world of ours.

 At almost no cost, without adult interference, and asking for only a little support, the three have worked hard and with determined patience to bring life back to an important local ecosystem.

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