Dad plans a pond in the backyard and speaks of all the wonderful things that it will hold. But it is a promise left unfulfilled.
When Dad dies, the uncompleted pond becomes a large part of the family’s grieving. The young narrator wants to see the pond completed, but for now they all see only “the muddy, messy hole that filled our hearts.” When the narrator fills the hole with water it makes the mess worse. Mother and older brother let out their anger, and the child retreats, screaming at Dad for dying. The family goes through the motions of their lives, and eventually the rebuilding of the pond brings them together. Then there is vegetation, insects, tadpoles, and dragonflies, just as Dad had envisioned, and they celebrate each sign of life. In time they are able to move on and start anew. Davies avoids sentimentality and pity in expressing the young narrator’s raw and painful emotions, as the survivors experience all the stages of grief, separately and together. Fisher’s dark-toned illustrations place the family deeply in shadow, encased in their pain. Only the pond has a degree of light, growing a bit stronger as time passes. The family emerges from the shadows emotionally, and finally, the image is bathed in misty light as they leave. Dad is white, and Mum appears to be Asian.
Heart-wrenching, powerful, and beautifully realized. (Picture book. 6-10)