November 16, 2017

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The Pond by Nicola Davies | SLJ Review

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redstarDAVIES, Nicola. The Pond. illus. by Cathy Fisher. 32p. Graffeg. Nov. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781912050703.
K-Gr 4 –The first thing one notices about this picture book is the black pages, sometimes appearing as solid backgrounds, at other points layered with textured, mixed media compositions. A relatively rare choice in children’s books, but one that supports the despondency and rage a boy experiences when his dad dies. Building a pond had been the father’s idea. He and his younger son—the narrator—had envisioned tadpoles and dragonflies; his older son and wife were less enthusiastic. Davies’s eloquent narrative rings true to the rhythms of grief. First a false sense of recovery deflates: spotting a duck, the protagonist attempts to fill the empty pond, but the wall breaks and floods the kitchen. The disaster brings out the worst in everyone. Silhouettes scream through splotchy glass; the child curls up in a cocoon of scrawled lines. Fisher’s wondrous scenes carry the emotional weight of each stage. Ultimately, a dazzling, rebuilt surprise teems with bubbles, tadpole eggs, and floating green life forms. Healing has taken a firmer hold, and loving memories are shared in a family wall collage. The boy’s yearning for connection is fulfilled in the blossoming water lily described by his father, purchased by his brother. The family’s ethnic origins and the cause of death are unspecified: “He died and left a muddy, messy hole that filled our garden.” These decisions are inclusive for purposes of bibliotherapy, although the skillful storytelling reaches well beyond a niche audience. ­VERDICT The book is extraordinary in its beauty and honesty—and therefore in its degree of comfort. Best shared one-on-one with a caring adult.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2017 issue.

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