It’s a somewhat difficult task to review a book written by adults and intended for children. Reviewers must force themselves into a childlike way of thinking and then ask themselves questions like, “Would a child understand this? Would a child think this is funny? Is the lesson clear? Is the author talking down at children or across to them?” I found it much easier to review Peter A. Black’s Parables from the Pond than I had first anticipated.
Using a marsh setting, Mr. Black reaches out to his young readers in a gentle and fun way. He begins with three primary characters: Natalie Newt, Frankie Frog, and Cecil Snake. These three, with delicious alliteration, are loveable creatures, not only because of their simplicity, but also because of the lessons they learn right before the readers’ eyes.
The book begins with the planning of a celebration directed toward the Creator of the pond. We are immediately interested in the worries and excitement in anticipation of the event. Each episode is a complete story in itself, yet each one leads right into the next after a small hand full of questions are offered which are intended to engage the young listeners or readers.
Mr. Black progresses through the book as though he has designed the chapters to age with the child who is reading them. The stories within the story become more detailed with added characters and more complex problems. The lessons at the end of each chapter become more challenging, encouraging the reader to grow as he or she engages.
I dove into the book with the same gusto as Natalie and Frankie showed when diving into the pond to escape one more rascally character, Tyler Turtle. Every possible swamp creature is weaved into the tale. We are shown each of them as parts of creation, with their own roles to play within an ecosystem. Every one of them is given a likeable personality that is very different from all the others.
Mr. Black is a masterful storyteller for children, creating what could potentially have the same durability as the main character of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. Mr. Black’s language has the same formal overtones as Ms. Potter’s, but he has woven a lovely collection of moral messages throughout the pages without it sounding preachy.
Parables of the Pond is a wonderful children’s book that could very easily become a classic and the next bedtime story of choice. It is an engaging tale that does more than just entertain. Thank you, Mr. Black, for taking me back to the delicious memories of my childhood.