Beyond the Pond
by Joseph Kuefler
Published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (October 6, 2015)
My Rating: 4 stars
One way to make the cover of a picture book capture the interest of potential readers is to make it naturally invoke questions. Questions like, “Why does that backyard pond have sharks and squid in it?” and “What are the boy and the dog at the edge of the pond going to do?” These are the questions that pop into my mind when glancing at the cover of Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler.
For young Ernest D., life is ordinary and boring, so he decides to explore the pond in the backyard. After poking it with a stick, using a fishing pole to dip down into it and throwing a stone, he discovers that the pond is bottomless. Excited to explore a pond with no bottom, Ernest D. drags out all of his explorer gear, prepares himself and dives in, with his dog, to uncover the mysteries of the pond. After the fish and the frogs come the sharks and squid, sunken treasure and darkness. When Ernest D. and his companion come up on the other side, they discover a world that is wondrous and magical, but also frightening and beyond imagination. Ernest D. is a brave young boy who battles his way through the scary monsters of this strange, wild world. Satisfied that he has found something “exceptional,” he travels back through the dark pond and emerges back home with a new perspective. His own ordinary world becomes extraordinary.
The illustrations for Beyond the Pond are pretty magical. I’m especially fond of the spread where Ernest D. and his pup sit in a tree watching the sun rise in a land where dinosaurs roam in the distance and purple butterflies float against a backdrop of rainbow-kissed mountains.
The story, not just the cover, may lead to a lot of questions, especially from younger children. I found myself asking why the dog doesn’t wear diving gear like the boy, and you may find yourself explaining the meaning of the words exceptional and ordinary.
You might also find yourself reassuring sensitive kids that sharks don’t actually live in ponds. As a kid, my imagination used to run wild while swimming in our local lake and even our pool. Sharks would pop into my mind often when I closed my eyes to go underwater. And I didn’t even need a book to suggest this. Imagination is a funny thing – it can be both frightening and inspiring.
Beyond the Pond is a great story for starting a discussion about what’s real, what’s fiction and how imagination can change the world.
What’s your favorite book about the power of imagination? Let me know in the comments section.
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