Written and Illustrated by Joseph Kuefler
Balzer + Bray, 2015
Just behind an ordinary house filled with too little fun, Ernest D. had decided today would be the day that he’d explore the depths of his pond.
The plot in a nutshell: A boy explores the world outside his normal border.
Ernest D. discovers that his pond has no bottom and takes that as an invitation to explore it. He gets his supplies together and then he (and his dog) dive in and swim down past sunken boats and sea creatures. They see a light above them and swim toward it, coming out into a whole new world with dinosaurs and unicorns and amazing things. There are even scary things there, but Ernest D. is brave enough to battle them. At the end of his day, he dives back into the water and returns home, amazed at the wonderful things he’s seen and excited to think of all the places in the world yet to explore.
This is the picture book debut from author/illustrator Joseph Kuefler and while it has elements that are reminiscent of other authors and artists, I wouldn’t call it derivative. The concept of an ordinary place becoming a portal to another location is not really new, but this take on it was intriguing and part of that comes down to Ernest D, who is a really interesting character. When he realizes his pond has no bottom, he calls it ‘exceptional’ and literally jumps for joy. He strikes me as a kid who has been waiting for something just like this to happen to him.
When I first saw this on the library shelf, I was certain it was Jon Klassen’s artwork. There are definite similarities, but on closer examination you’ll see a real difference in their style. There’s some great use of light and color in the world on the other side of the pond that makes you every bit as eager to explore it as Ernest D. And I love the final picture, which shows him looking very positive and excited to check out the rest of the world, now that the pond has opened his eyes.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that once you realize there are amazing places in the world, you never want to stop looking for them.