Monday, April 17, 2017

On Duck Pond and On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall

On Duck Hill by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall
Cornell Lab Publishing, 2017, 32 pages, age 3+

An anonymous narrator observes how quickly the quiet of a small pond is interrupted by the noisy arrival of a "quack of ducks" first seen approaching it on the title page. As they splash down, the narrator notices how all the other pond residents are surprised and quickly scatter - turtles, frogs, tadpoles, herons all rush away in the rippling water. Luckily for the pond inhabitants, the narrator tells us, the ducks are only staying temporarily and as soon as they move on, the quiet peaceful life of the pond returns. Even the woodland creatures, who come to the pond to for its water, approach it again. The narrator, who has been closely observing all of the sudden activity, is revealed to be a boy walking his dog by the pond.   

On Duck Pond is narrated in a simple first person rhyme, using a combination of rhyming couplets and tercets. While Yolen’s text is spare, they describe perfectly what is being observed. Her rhyme is set against Marstall’s beautifully evocative paintings. For his illustrations, Marstall chose a palette of pale springtime greens and yellows for the pond’s landscape, accentuating the visiting ducks with bolder colors that capture their natural coloring.

At the back of the book, there is information about ducks, including the various names for a group of ducks. “Quack of ducks” was Yolen’s personal term for this book, and I felt it was a perfect way to describe the loud quacking accompanying the duck’s arrival at the pond. There are also two charts showing the various kinds of ducks and other birds included in the books illustrations, as well as the many other animals seen around Duck Pond. Each chart gives information about the bird or animal, and which young readers can use each find and identify all them in the illustrations.  

On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall
Cornell Lab Publishing, 2016, 32 pages, age 3+

Although not realistic as On Duck Pond is, On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall's earlier collaboration, is nevertheless a nice companion to it, especially for young readers who are just beginning to learn about the importance of nature in our lives. Once again the narrator, the same young boy out walking his dog, observes nature's activities, this time on a hill that overlooks the ocean. His focus narrows down to a bird sitting on a nest on a branch of a tall tree. Slowly, the egg she is sitting on cracks, and an new chick comes into the world.  I really liked the book and its rhyme, this time using only rhyming couplets. 

Marstall's illustrations in On Bird Hill are somewhat simpler and whimsical compared to On Duck Pond, but still done in those lovely springtime colors that signify regrow and renewal. And although it is a work of fantasy, I’m only sorry that On Bird Hill doesn’t have the kind of back matter that On Duck Pond has, but teachers, librarians, and parents can easily make their own resources for it, using On Duck Pond as a model.

On Duck Pond and On Bird Hill offer young readers an interesting and imaginative way of seeing nature with lots of lovely surprises.

On Duck Pond was sent to me by the publisher, Cornell Lab Publishing
On Bird Hill was borrowed from the NYPL

April 22, 2017 is Earth Day

1 comment:

  1. Hello Alex, I like the sound of these two, and they are perfect for this time of the year when there is so much new life around. The front cover of On Duck Pond really appeals to me.

    I hope you are enjoying the springtime. I'm sure it felt like a long time coming to your part of the world much as it did here. I really don’t like the cold months and am so happy to see warmer weather on the way.


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