Beyond the Pond

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Beyond the Pond Book Poster Image
Boy finds magical world in imaginative, artful tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduction to interesting vocabulary: "raucous," "ghoulish," "ghastly," "brawl," "cavern," "exceptional." Also, there's beautifully crafted language throughout: "He battled and brawled until the moon ducked low."

Positive Messages

The world is a magical place if you take the time to observe and explore. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boy, in "an ordinary house filled with too little fun," decides to create his own magic and fun by exploring his pond. He's an adventurous kid, who has "explorer supplies." When he takes the time to observe and notice the exceptional things on his adventure, his eyes are opened to the beauty around him daily.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beyond the Pond is a story about a boy who decides to investigate the pond behind his house. He dives in, swims deep, and discovers another, magical world with fantastical elements such as dinosaurs and unicorns. When he returns home, everything ordinary looks a bit more magical, underscoring the eye-opening power of the imagination. Parents might want to reserve this book for kids over 4 or 5, as younger kids may have trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality and might take the idea of exploring the depths literally, thinking they can jump in water over their heads or over their swimming abilities. In this, as in all choices, know your kid.

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What's the story?

In BEYOND THE POND, a boy named Ernest D. tries to plumb the depths of the pond outside his house. When he can't touch the bottom with a stick, a fishing line, or a stone, he decides to explore. He gathers "his explorer supplies," suits up, and dives into the dark depths of the pond, where he comes upon a sunken ship and buried treasure. He then climbs out on the other side and discovers a magical world on land where he sees dinosaurs and unicorns, takes flight with a bird, and battles and brawls "until the moon ducked low." When he returns home, he finds that his home looks a little less ordinary, and "every street and every corner was a place unexplored. 'Exceptional!' said Ernest D."

Is it any good?

Older picture-book readers can enjoy this imaginative tale about diving into a bottomless pond and discovering a magical world with unicorns, dinosaurs, and ghoulish, ghastly creatures. Throughout, the writing is artfully crafted -- "He dove into lightless stretches and through sunken treasures" -- and there are fun details. What kid wouldn't want that array of "explorer supplies"? The digital art is appealing, as is the message that imagination brightens perception.

The parade of experiences, though, can seem a bit hodgepodge, more like a list than a single adventure with a strong connecting thread, and kids might be disappointed that the action's high points are referenced but not described in detail: "He battled and brawled until the moon ducked low." Parents should be careful about introducing this book to very young readers who can't swim and may not have gotten the memo yet that fantasy isn't real. For little ones, the life teeming at the edge of the pond -- tadpoles, fish, algae, and cattails -- can be magic enough.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about swimming and safety rules. Can you swim in water over your head? How far underwater is it safe to dive? When should you make sure to have an adult with you?

  • What can you notice in the world around you? What do you see in your everyday world that you haven't noticed before?

  • Do you ever imagine that there's a magical world in a pond? Or anywhere else you can't see? Draw a picture of what you imagine.

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