Ernest D. transcends the ordinary by diving deep into his pond, encountering fantastic scenes that ultimately enhance his appreciation of home.
Determined, accompanied by his imperturbable terrier, Ernest D. dives down, “past the squid and sharks and shapeless / things, into his pond forever deep.” Kuefler’s digital images portray this backyard pond’s depths as the inky, lightless sea. Ernest D., sporting a vintage diver’s helmet, red flippers, and a knapsack full of supplies, emerges from the pond “on the other side”—a disjointed fantasy land populated by a baboon, dinosaurs, squirrels, stylized plant forms, and a bird that carries boy and dog aloft. This land’s not merely odd, but “ghoulish / and ghastly.” Bats, a spider, and a giant lend a temporary scariness to a few spreads, as Ernest D. bravely “battled and brawled / until the moon ducked low.” Surveying a dawn-pink, rainbow-and-koala–enhanced tableau, the boy reflects that “All this was hiding in a pond…. / How exceptional.” Diving home, he emerges back into a world that “looked a little less ordinary… / Beyond every street and silent corner was a place / unexplored.” The narrative, while occasionally evocative, renders Ernest D. as a contrivance rather than a compelling character. Spreads occasionally recall Jon Klassen’s technique and Irwin Hasen’s “Dondi” comic strips.
Glints of potential elevate an otherwise derivative, digitally composed debut. (Picture book. 4-8)