The Secret Pool
by Kimberly Ridley; illus by Rebekah Raye
32 pages; ages 7-10
Tillbury House, 2013
"A shimmer. A twinkling. Do you have any inkling of what I am?"
Themes: animal, nature, nonfiction
You might walk right by a vernal pool and not notice it. Or you might think it's just a puddle in the woods. But vernal pools are more than puddles...
Opening: "I'm a watery jewel called a vernal pool. I sparkle, but that's not the only reason I'm precious. Many creatures of the forest depend on me."
In this book you meet the frogs and salamanders and birds and fairy shrimp that depend on a temporary pool. You see the life above and the life below the waterline. Along the way you learn what "vernal pools" are, the life cycle of frogs and salamanders, and how to go "pool hopping".
What I like about this book: I love the artwork! Rebekah Raye's illustrations make you just want to plunge right into a pool yourself. I like the way author Kimberly Ridley tells the story from the point of view of the pool itself. The text is easy to read, with rhyming words tucked in here and there, and alliterations sprinkled throughout. About fairy shrimp, for example: "Slim and frilly, they swim willy-nilly.... tickling me with their feathery feet."
There's a sidebar on each spread, so readers can learn how to tell the difference between frog and salamander eggs, what tadpoles look like, and the predators who use the vernal pool as a snack bar. And there's a helpful glossary at the back.
Beyond the Book: Spring peepers are usually the first frogs we hear around our area. It's a bit chilly for frogs at the top of the hill where I live, but my friends in the flatlands say they can already hear frogsongs at night. You can listen to the sounds of frogs from the Sandhills of Nebraska here.
Sing a Frog Song. One of my favorite counting songs is "Five Little Speckled Frogs". Sing along, or make up your own song about life in the vernal pool.
Go on a Listening Walk. Walk into the woods or find a place to listen outside for about 10 minutes. Write down all the spring sounds you hear. Which ones are made by animals? Can you tell what animals are making those noises? Are there any noises that aren't made by animals?
Play Vernal Pool Bingo. I borrowed this idea from UC Davis. Create bingo sheets that feature different plants and animals that live in vernal pools. This would be fun to play in the car while driving to a natural area - or while sitting near a pool.
Make a Vernal Pool in a Bin. Line the bottom of your bin with leaves - or paper leaves that you cut out of colored paper. Then pour in some hydrated water beads (a mix of blues and greens with clear beads would be neat). When you're out and about, look for some rubber or plastic frogs and salamanders that you can put in your pool. Or draw the animals you see in the book, and cut them out to put in and around your pool.
Drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing. Today's review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books.
On Monday we'll pool-hop over to join the Nonfiction Monday round-up, where you'll find all kinds of great nonfiction for children and teens. Review f & g provided by publisher.