The Noisy Puddle: A Vernal Pool Through the Seasons

Owlkids. Mar. 2024. 32p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771475310.
K-Gr 3–“Listen. Listen. What do you hear? Peepers peeping. Everywhere!” Sweeney’s concise, lyrical picture book invites readers to join a young girl and boy, both with pale skin and dark brown hair, on a damp forest walk to delight the senses. The children discover a vernal pool: “Look! Look! Look over there...a noisy puddle, cold and clear.” Turtles, ducks, and other familiar forest wildlife wade in the early spring wetland with more inconspicuous creatures, such as water boatmen and phantom midges. Cutaway views give readers a peek into critter activity below the water and earth’s surface, reminiscent of Messner’s “Over and Under” series. The children revisit this life-giving wetland throughout the year, observing its transitory cycle. The seasons flow from early spring’s earthy browns and pops of yellow-greens into the lush, deep green of summer. Fiery reds, golden yellows, and rust browns of fall fade into the white hush and muted neutrals of winter. Sato’s signature mixed-media illustrations enhance the story’s rich sensory experience, meshing an assortment of textures to create layered, three-dimensional illustrations. Crinkled brown paper mimics fallen leaves on the forest floor and thin, rumpled plastic imitates reflections on water. Sweeney and Sato effectively capture the cyclical wetland ecosystem of vernal pools while stimulating the senses. Thoroughly researched back matter expounds on the seasonal phases of these pools.
VERDICT A sensory experience promising to tickle the curiosity of young naturalists, whether in classroom or on the scene.

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