How Exceptional: A Review of Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler

Some things seem so ordinary that we pass by them every day, without giving second thought. How much wonder and amazement is in the ordinary that we miss out on?

When i was teaching first grade, I always encouraged students to slow down and enjoy the “now” and to wonder and marvel at the beauty that was at their very hands every day. One assignment was to find a rock, and we spent so much time simply “wondering” about our rocks. How could we ever tell the rock’s story? Where did it come from?

And that was just one instance. Since then, I’ve always been on the lookout for books that encourage students to expand their view of the ordinary and believe.

Joseph Kuefler’s Beyond the Pond does just that.

When Ernest D. learns that the ordinary pond outside of his home has no bottom, he sets off to explore. And, oh how exceptional it will be. The journey and the wonder begin.

Ernest D. and his dog go deep enough down that they come up in a world unknown. It was everything they wanted it to be… oh so tiny. Oh so tall, and everything in between.

Joseph Kuefler uses colors and a combination of mixed media, and photographed textures, to digitally create the illustrations in the book. The textures are perfect. The colors express the emotion of the new “land” at the end of the pond so well.

As the moon rises, Ernest D. and his dog dive deep back down to the other end of the pond.

And when they return, suddenly things seem so less ordinary. They seem…. exceptional.

And that’s the way it works with young children, too. When you start looking for the exceptional, and wondering about the ordinary, suddenly the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Children are losing their sense of wonder. It’s our job as educators to instill that love of wonder and urge to be curious and explore what lies beyond the pond. We need more books like this. To encourage wonder, curiosity, and exploration of the ordinary. Because the ordinary is really the extraordinary, it’s just the way you look at it. How exceptional.



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