Over and Under the Pond

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

“Over the pond, the wind gives us a push and stirs the light-dappled leaves on shore. There on a branch, a new goldfinch teeters, finally ready to fly. Under the pond, tadpoles are changing, learning to hop. They’re losing tails, growing legs, growing up.”

A mother and son paddle their boat through a wetlands habitat. They notice birds, fish, turtles, beavers, other animals and plants engaging in everyday activities: “Over the pond, cattails rustle and shush in the wind” while “Under the pond, a caddisfly larva builds a home of her own—a secret shelter of pebbles and sand.” These noticings flow in a slow, repetitive rhythm that contrasts the happenings over and under the pond (see nearby nature). The exploration of the landscape details the specificity of the pond’s ecosystem, from morning to night.

Over and Under the Pond is part of Messner’s award-winning Over and Under series. It is inspired by the author’s canoe trip at a wetland habitat at Barnim Pond, in upstate New York. For climate literacy instruction, the slow-paced story offers excellent entry points to discuss biodiversity of pond and lake ecosystems, especially the symbiotic relationship of plants and animals each of which can thrive only in relation to one another (see food webs, wildlife). Each page portrays the plants, insects, fish, mammals, birds, and reptiles that make their home upon, above, and below the water. From caddisfly larva, the pebbles and sand at the pond’s bottom, to the great blue heron stalking the quicksilver minnow, each episode shows the interaction between species and their habitats. As suggested by the Author’s Note, the book represents a trophic cascade of the pond ecosystem: from producers (like plants and plankton) to herbivores (like fish, birds, or beavers) to carnivores (like the great blue heron, otter, and raccoon), and on to decomposers (bacteria and fungi) that break down decayed matter to return nutrients to the soil so that the cycle can start again (see webs of life). The last five openings feature a list of 18 animals named in the book, each with a short description of its role in the ecosystem, followed by a Further Reading section.

Over and Under the Pond is a great resource for teaching about the abundance and interconnectedness of life existing even where we cannot see it: “Under the pond is a whole hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs.” It can lead to discussions about habitat preservation, marine conservation, and biodiversity loss. While not directly mentioning climate change, the complex interactions between plant and animal can be leveraged to show the fragility of the environment and the need for mindful conservation of what marine biodiversity and wildlife habitats still exists.

©2023 ClimateLit (Jared Goodman)


Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2017

Pages: 48

ISBN: 9781452145426

Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13), Sprouts (0-3)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: Biodiversity, Biodiversity Loss, Conservation, Ecosystems, Food Webs, Habitat Preservation, Habitats, Interconnectedness, Marine Conservation, Nearby Nature, Pond Ecosystems, Symbiosis, Trophic Cascade, Web of Life, Wetland Ecosystems, Wildlife