A Different Pond

Illustrated by Thi Bui

“Dad smiles, his teeth broken and white in the dark, because we have a few fish and he knows we will eat tonight.”

A father and son set off in the twilight hours of the morning with their fishing gear. At a nearby pond, they both fish as the boy tries to imagine what his father’s life was like before he came to this country. As they return home at the crack of dawn, readers get to witness their family life, the struggles and the joys they share with one another, and the things that draw them together. Thi Bui’s art enriches the book, showing entire lifetimes through the limited glimpses we have into the home and environments of the characters—from the pictures on the walls of the house or the mud-splattered car.

This book is an effective tool to understand the experience of immigrant families and the ways in which national identities inform our relationship with the natural world. When the boy asks why they have to fish for food even though his father is working two jobs, the father says, “Everything in America costs a lot of money.” In the book, the pond serves as a device that links the protagonist’s father to his past, to his country of origin and to the family he left behind. Local landscapes are a part of people’s cultural identities and familiarity with the outdoor spaces in a new country can be a valuable way for people to connect to the world around them. Although young, the protagonist is depicted as keen to help. In turn, his father entrusts him with various responsibilities throughout the book, including building and starting a fire. This grants agency to the child, while managing to communicate how a child’s circumstances alter the sort of life skills they acquire.

Not only does the book sensitively portray the value of food and of foraging for a family living in poverty, but it also manages to shine a light on the ways in which poorer neighborhoods lack access to nature, an aspect of environmental justice. Foraging, which might be a necessity for the characters in the story, is increasingly being recognized as a sustainable food system and a way to counter climate-change-induced food insecurity. Visual cues also show the readers that the pond where they are fishing is private property, providing room for a discussion about how trespassing can be a radical way to counter the limitations placed on the rights of people to move freely in the world. 

©2024 ClimateLit (Aparna Kapur)

More:

A Different Pond is featured in the Climate Literacy in Education’s curriculum guide: “Patch of Dirt: Eleven Picturebooks and a Plug for Nearby Nature

Publisher: Capstone Publishers, 2017

Pages: 32

ISBN: 978-1623708030

Audience: Little People (4-7), Sprouts (0-3)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Environmental Justice, Fish, Food, Food Insecurity, Foraging, Local Food, Sustainability

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