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Certain books just ask to be read aloud. Often, they possess a conversational quality or a certain voice you can “hear” in your mind. Beside the Pond by James Witmer, the newest in his Big Old Garden series, is one of those books.

Witmer’s writing has always reminded me of another favorite author, Thornton W. Burgess. We used to listen to his animal stories on Librivox when my kids were younger. None of us ever tired of them, least of all me.

The Story

Beside the Pond primarily follows Ferdinand, the smallest bullfrog in the little moon-shaped pond. Ferdinand longs to join The Chorus, but his voice is too small. Instead, Ferdinand’s days are spent observing the creatures around him. His observations occasionally lead him to do very silly things, like trying to store up food for the winter like a chipmunk. But even when Ferdinand is more of a watcher than an actor in his own story, his keen examination of the world around him keep the reader entertained. Over the course of a year, Ferdinand sees much, grows, and finally has a big enough voice to join The Chorus.

What I loved

Nature study–Every detail of the natural world that Witmer includes emerges from his observations, often of his own back yard. This book would make a fabulous nature study companion for a homeschool family.

Read-aloud-ability–While nature-loving kids will devour this book on their own, it just begs to be read aloud to the whole family.

I highly recommend Beside the Pond as a family read-aloud or as an engaging chapter book for nature-loving kids. If you haven’t already read A Year in the Big Old Garden, you’ll want to grab a copy of that one too. Technically, A Year in the Big Old Garden comes first, but you can read the books in any order. Witmer is also the author of Strange New Dog which I review HERE.

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