August 22, 2018

Turtle Pond

Written by James Gladstone
Illustrated by Karen Reczuch
Groundwood Books
978-1-55498-910-2
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
May 2018

Through the year, a young child and his family visit a conservatory of a local public garden to watch the many turtles who inhabit a man-made pond within. The boy is an ardent observer and young aesthete of the Red-eared Sliders as they interact with their environment and each other. From the playful activity of the young in spring to summers of basking and the later seasons with their own behaviours, Turtle Pond takes young readers on a scientific pilgrimage of observation and appreciation.
Slowly,
their mouths are moving.
Are turtles speaking?
We try to hear them,
the sounds they're making at turtle pond.
From Turtle Pond by James Gladstone, illus. by Karen Reczuch
There is swimming and feeding, resting and playing, all told in James Gladstone's five-line stanzas which always end with the words "turtle pond." The text may appear simple in its form but it is telling in its information and awareness. There is inquisitiveness and thought with appreciation and acceptance.
Gliding
under fat goldfish,
it swims up around them
in turtle circles,
poking at tail fins in turtle pond.
From Turtle Pond by James Gladstone, illus. by Karen Reczuch
But the story is only half-told without Karen Reczuch's realistic illustrations. I have always thought of Karen Reczuch as the Robert Bateman of children's book illustration because of her detailed depictions of the natural world. (Her award-winning Loon by Susan Vande Griek is a prime example.) But that moniker does a disservice to her art which goes far beyond natural settings and animals. (Check out her illustrations in Ainslie Manson's Just Like New and David Booth's The Dust Bowl.) It is her eye to detail and evocative imagery that takes the reader to her settings, here to watch the turtles in their lush environs of orchids, bromeliads and aquatics, in which the people are but tertiary.
From Turtle Pond by James Gladstone, illus. by Karen Reczuch
With its subtle verse and luxuriant illustrations, Turtle Pond would be a great teaching tool for poetry, science, and inquiry. It's a virtual field trip when a visit to a turtle pond is called for but impossible to arrange.

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