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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Over and Under the Pond, written by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Over the pond, the shadows of trees lean out from the shore. We coast under a low-hanging branch. A moose looks up with a mouthful of water lilies. We've interrupted his lunch. Under the pond, beavers dive deep. They pump with powerful tails and rise to the surface with delectable roots from the mud. Over the pond, the wind gives a push and stirs the light-dappled leaves on shore. There on a branch ... "

If you were lucky enough to read Over and Under the Snow (Chronicle, 2011) and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Chronicle, 2015), you are going to be very happy to see this companion book about a pond habitat. Kate Messner carefully goes about sharing the quiet stillness of a day in the life of this splendid habitat.

A boy and his mother are out in their rowboat; the boy is sharing his thoughts and impressions of this shared outing. He expresses his fascination with his surroundings, and asks questions about life under the pond's surface. The two take note of what they see over the pond, and then imagine the many wonders hidden from sight.

So many lovely scenes are described for us, and shown in mixed-media artwork that quietly surveys the pond and its environs, the wildlife that makes its home there and the appeal of the water, above and below its surface.

From high above, we get a bird's eye view of the mother and son in their rowboat:

"Over the pond we drift, heads tipped up to the sun.
A woodpecker clings to a teetering pine, digging
for ants."

And then from the bottom of the pond we watch a web-footed marvel:

"Under the pond, an otter claws for
freshwater mussels."

The day changes from early morning light, to bright afternoon sunshine, to the deep orange and purple darkness of sunset as the two paddle taking around in the beauty of their surroundings, making new discoveries at every turn.

In back matter, an author's note describes the pond ecosystem: "an interconnected community of organisms that interact with one another and with their environment"; and speaks of the inspiration for writing this fascinating and informative book. She follows up with short paragraphs about each of the included animals, birds and insects, as well as a list for further reading.

A must-have for your nonfiction shelf!

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