‘Over and Under the Pond?!’ by author Kate Messner and Illustrator Christopher Silas Neal
Kate Messner is a former teacher like myself and her training definitely comes across in her writing style. She writes with a wise voice, sneaking in facts throughout her story telling, and opening up a hidden world to children. What I like most about this book is the way on some pages she has captured both the above and below water scenes in one, giving a sense of depth to the pond and helping children realise that many animals live their lives moving both above and below the water’s surface and what an important role a pond plays on a whole ecosystem. It helps children value what they don’t always see and gives them a chance to pause and think about what other creatures they may overlook in their day to day lives, wherever that may be.
This story has a calm, lyrical quality to it and it really is a joy to read. I can sense the movement of the mother and child bobbing along in the rowing boat and the water gently blowing below them in the breeze when I read Kate’s words. She captures such a beautiful scene that you almost want to dive in to the pond with the turtle! She writes about the small details in nature with effortless fluidity: a goldfinch teeters, shadows of trees, the flip of a tail, and gives you pause to think when reading aloud about the small details that might be around you in your own home. She adds lots of onomatopoeia and alliteration too which breaks up the sleepiness evoked and adds texture throughout, ‘swish – bump!’. The addition of these poetic devices always makes books more interesting to read aloud with small children.
Coming back to the non-fiction aspect of this book, there is a heavy glossary of animals mentioned at the back. This is a great additional teaching tool for primary schools and makes it a wonderful book for all class libraries. Kate adds fun interesting facts for children about each animal and whilst it is a little long and overwhelming for a one off read at bedtime, it is something you would return to again and again with each read, looking at different animals each time.
The illustrations are fairly simple in deign yet beautiful. The colour pallet used in calm and full of pastel colours, cool like the water and warm like the fading sun. There is texture too in Christopher’s pencil marks and sponge printing that adds an extra layer to each page. This is the third book in the ‘over and under’ series. The first one Over and Under the Snow my children also enjoyed so if you haven’t checked that one out, then we can recommend it too.