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POND CIRCLE by Betsy Franco


by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Stefano Vitale

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: June 9th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4169-4021-0
Publisher: McElderry

What begins as a soothing, bedtime chant in the style of “The House that Jack Built” takes a dark turn as it covers the cycle of life. “This is the water, the deep, still water that filled the pond by Anna’s house,” it starts. Then readers see the nymph that eats the algae, the beetle that eats the nymph and so on. But when the food chain arrives at a snake eating a frog and a skunk eating the snake, one wonders what carnage lies ahead. The narrative pulls back at this point with an owl only diving for the skunk and ends with a coyote stalking a raccoon. Anna calls a “hello” back to the howling coyote, but it’s hard to imagine most children not rooting for the prey here. Vitale’s muted oils painted on wood lend themselves well to the nocturnal landscape and give depth to the murky water, but certain images, such as the beady-eyed snake and the frightening owl swooping toward the reader, might give little ones more than they bargained for. It’s a worthwhile venture, to depict nature red in tooth and claw, but best saved for somewhat older readers. (Picture book. 6-9)