The editor of Field and Stream takes young readers through a year-in-the-life in, on, and around the Chappaqua, New York, pond near his home. (Only the jacket flap, however, reveals its location.) He begins in January with many creatures gone and others ""close to death"" in hibernation, and throughout the cycle--of life ""bursting forth"" in the spring, at peak activity in summer, and beginning to wane in fall--he directs readers to tracks and other signs in nature, and works in a little information on the individual animals' life cycles and habits. (When a fox kills a cottontail rabbit, we're told that ""everyone eats the cottontail,"" which accounts for her raising six litters a year--80% of the young die before the year is up.) Samson is less good at explaining than at reporting: his frequent references to ""instinct"" are far from clarifying, and he refers to the ""puzzle"" of fireflies and other ""strange"" light without going into what is known about the subject. However, his stated concern here is to avoid sentimentality and combat the tendency to impose human traits and human judgments on wild creatures--and that he does decidedly, without making too much of the lesson.