Over and Under the Pond

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Over and Under the Pond Book Poster Image
Lovely book about wildlife teeming in and around a pond.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Concept of ecosystem in wetlands and pond. Vocabulary in context: lurk, lunge, delectable, teeters, spindly, larva, scuttling, waterlogged, herbivore, carnivore, omnivore. More detailed information in notes at end about the animals featured in story.

Positive Messages

We can be respectful of nature and learn about wildlife. The lives of various animals are interconnected in an ecosystem. Nature is precious and rich.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boy and mom are mindful of the animal life living in and above the pond. They enjoy nature and are observant, respectful, and intellectually curious.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Over and Under the Pond, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, is the third in their series of books observing the plants and animals around us. The previous two are set in the snow and the garden (Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt). In this book, an African-American boy and mom are skimming over a pond in a canoe, observing the rich wildlife teeming above and below the water's surface. The text demonstrates how the animals they spot are interconnected, and at the end provides additional information about each animal featured. The boy's a sensitive and perceptive role model, and by example encourages kids to be mindful of the environment. This book's a natural for budding naturalists.

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What's the story?

In OVER AND UNDER THE POND, a boy and his mom paddle over a pond in a canoe. When the boy asks, "What’s down there?" the text describes the life that's both over and above the pond. For instance, under the pond beavers dive for "delectable roots," and dragonflies "catch minnows in their monster-fast jaws." Above the pond, a red-winged blackbird collects grasses for her nest. As "the sky turns from sunset to dusk to dark," the two head home, while "Night settles over the pond … and the hidden world under the pond."

Is it any good?

A book that's as deep and bountiful as the pond it plumbs, this profile of a rich, busy ecosystem will entrance all nature lovers. In Over and Under the Pond, author Kate Messner's text is clear and informative as well as lyrical, with passages such as "The water’s a mirror, reflecting the sky," and a description of dragonfly larvae catching minnows "in monster-fast jaws."

Illustrator Christopher Silas Neal's art makes the pond come alive, revealing what cannot easily be seen below the surface. In one spread with a striking perspective, we look down at the pond from the great height of a woodpecker pecking a tall tree. In another, we look up from the depths at the bottom of the boat. Neal cast the boy and the mom as African-American, and it's our pleasure to take a ride with this thoughtful, observant pair, as our attention is drawn to all the wildlife around them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the animals featured in the "About the Animals" key at the end of Over and Under the Pond. Can you find each of the animals in the story?

  • Which animals are herbivores (plant eaters) and which are carnivores (meat eaters)?

  • Is there a place near you where you can observe animals in their natural habitat? What can you see and hear if you're quiet?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love environmental books and nature

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