Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond gives readers get a glimpse of life among the animals living in a small pond as the seasons change. A child – who could be either a boy or a girl – watches life in a small pond change throughout the seasons. Beginning in the spring, tadpoles wiggle and jiggle and baby geese waddle and wade; as the seasons progress, we see turtles doze, minnows scatter, muskrats stack, and finally, a frog – a presence throughout the book – burrow under the mud as winter sets in, waiting for spring.
The artwork uses color to take readers through the seasons: the bright greens and yellows of spring, the blue and green laziness of a hot summer day, the brown and yellow of fall setting in, and the cool blues and whites of the winter. Ms. Fleming gives life to her story by using collages created by poured cotton pulp through hand-cut stencils onto handmade paper, giving her illustrations a beautiful, handmade feel that will attract the attention of children and adult audiences. The rhythm of the rhyming text will appeal to young readers. The text is bold and black, with few words to a page; more often than not, the text blends with the background, but this is a book meant to be read-aloud; this will not be a distraction to participants. This is a companion book to the author’s In The Tall, Tall Grass, which uses the same type of artwork and storytelling.
In the Small, Small Pond received Caldecott Honors in 1994 and a Child Study Children’s Book Committee award in 1995.
The book would be a great addition to a read-aloud on seasons or it can be part of a read-aloud on pond life: frogs, birds, fish, or turtles, for instance. There are many ideas on seasonal read-alouds and read-alouds related to pond animals on the Web that can be used for free. The author’s website offers a printable “finish the picture” coloring page where children can create their own pond scene, and there is also a match-up game for older audiences where the children match the animal with the verb (i.e., geese waddle, turtles doze).