At the Pond

­Candlewick. Mar. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536205985.
Gr 3-4–Elliott’s appreciative introduction to animals at a pond invites observation and enjoyment. At daybreak, “The red-winged blackbird spreads his sail/ and sings his hello morning song.” A leaping bullfrog shares the dawning day, followed by 16 pond dwellers moving through 13 inviting double-page views. Elliott’s nicely structured poems, most in blank verse, vary in simplicity and clarity for children. Schimler-Safford’s skillful collage conveys setting and animals with beauty, energy, and bits of humor. For instance, a handsome duck family (“What a swimming portrait/ the dabbing mallards make”) is soon followed by Harry the catfish, the only named animal, who has been given “a loving appellation” by an unspecified “they.” A water strider is “Enigmatic/ yet prolific/ Each day/ he writes/ his story/ in rippling hieroglyphics.” There are also beavers, muskrats, water snakes, and more. The pond appears to be in a remote area, the sun rising and setting over a spare hillside. A small boat or two appear occasionally, and two children once dash into view, setting startled turtles and geese into motion. The format of the book is very attractive, but many of the poems will be elusive for the younger grades. There’s no definition or explanation of ponds, and while the concluding notes on plants and animals are interesting and fun, facts and explanation about each species are lacking.
VERDICT A pleasant book for animal and poetry fans of varied ages.

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