Song of the Water Boatman

& Other Pond Poems

written by Marjorie Priceman
illustrated by Beckie Prange

Joyce Sidman's Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems
illustrated by Beckie Prange

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 7-12

Meet the pond creatures

I don't normally love poetry, but I sure do love ponds. Author Sidman certainly knows how to bring a wetland alive in the mind's eye.

Let me start by saying that some of my fondest childhood memories, and some of my fondest parenting memories, have occurred at ponds. I'm going to recommend this book, but more importantly, I'm going to recommend that you take your children to a pond.

If you never have, you're denying them, and yourself, one of the greatest activities ever.

Back when interactive meant interactive (not punching buttons to produce results on a screen), ponds were a place where children found life and science in abundance. There it all was, on a child-sized scale, at a child-convenient level.

Children master a pond. They're so much closer to the action than we are. They find oodles of stuff we miss!

In short, a pond is a place for hungry young minds. This book of pond poems takes all that wonder and gives words to it.

Sidman introduces us to a variety of pond inhabitants, using both poem and prose. Can you guess who this is?

Listen for me on a spring night,
on a wet night,
on a rainy night.
Listen for me on a still night,
for in the night, I sing.

It's a Spring Peeper, a small frog with a balloon-throat and a special "antifreeze" running through its body that allows it to survive a freezing winter.

A Water Boatman, on the other hand, is a carnivorous underwater insect with a "boat-shaped bod[y] and oarlike legs," who breathes air he brings with him in a bubble he holds beneath his belly.

His close relative, the Backswimmer, is to Sidman a pirate.

Yo, ho, ho,
the pond winds blow;
and upside down is the way to go.

Illustrator Prange won a 2006 Caldecott Honor for her detailed watercolors magnifying these tiny creatures and their watery surroundings.

Spring Peeper, crop from Song of the Water Boatman

Most of the poems in Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems are first person, helping kids to imagine themselves in a different skin. But don't let the book serve as a substitute for a trip to a pond. Let it complement that trip.

Webmaster's note: For younger "pond" kids, you'll want to check out In the Small, Small Pond.

More Caldecott honorees.

More picture book poetry.

More science picture books.

More of Steve's reviews.

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