This beautiful book was first written in 1982 and has since gone out of print, like many beautiful and fascinating books of its kind, but the birth of the ebook has breathed new life into Janes pond book.
Here are just a few of the delightful new illustrations that will go with the new book, drawn by Michael Spark.
About the book
The woefully short-sighted Owen, an unlikely hero in any other context, falls into a pond under improbable circumstances and shrinks to animalcule size. (A transparently contrived beginning, perhaps, but even Alice had to enter Wonderland somehow.)
From then on Owen’s adventures among the pond people are credible, vivid and exciting. Befriended by Sedilla the Waterflea he sets out on a journey beset with many dangers and few delights, the kind of journey plotted by Homer, Dante and Bunyan for their heroes and for much the same reason – to prove that mere mortals, for all their shortcomings, may win through against seemingly impossible odds and be chastened or matured by their ordeals.Predictably the nasties of the pond vastly outnumber the goodies.
Owens’ ingenuity is stretched to the limit as he encounters the Giant Transparent Blob, the Hydra Witch, the Copepods, the treacherous Cyclops, and the evil Pond-ghosts – the same blood-thirsty villains I used to stare at wide-eyed through my cheap microscope so many years ago.
Jane Waller seems to be making a brave attempt to educate as much as to entertain.
Scientific terminology pervades her narrative: the majority of the creatures in the pond retain their scientific names.
Daphnia, Ostracod, Bosmina, Euglena, Diplodontus Despiciens, and Mysis Relicta are lifted straight out of the textbooks and in conversation with such as these Owen and the readership learn some useful facts about the life histories of pond creatures.
What people say about Below the Green Pond
‘Owen’s underwater world is both beautiful and treacherous. Natural history turned into an exciting adventure, much enjoyed by a wide age range’
Voted by The Federation of Children’s Book Groups among the Pick of the Year , ‘a selection of recommended books for families, tried and tested by children, and voted the best of the year’.
‘Ever since Alice fell down that rabbit hole, and virtually put an end to the straight-forward telling of a fairy tale, children’s writers have been experimenting with other worlds in which their young protagonists could adventure. Sad to say most of these have been pretty derivative, a reflection on the general paucity of the imagination when confronted with circumstances in which anything is possible.
Jane Waller has got over this predicament in a most original and satisfying way. Her young Owen falls into a completely ordinary pond, where all the laws of biology operate, and in which the food chain is untampered with. Nature remains green in jaw and bubble even if the creatures have the power to discuss their predicaments; and Owen remains an ordinary boy even if he can breather underwater and has become small enough to live in a jam jar. Like any other boy, he needs friends, and finds one here in Sedilla, the water flea, delicately portrayed by Frank Rodgers.
The little creature has a jolly line in moral discourse, assuring the slightly shocked Owen that living is for fun, and that you can even enjoy the idea of being useful when you’re dead and helping to form the mud that feeds the sphagnum moss. Nevertheless, Jane Waller sees to it that her readers experience a real if tiny grief when the flea is taken for dead after an attack by a hydra.’ Shirley Toulson, Times Educational Supplement, 26/11/82
‘I read Below the Green Pond during a transatlantic flight and found it possible to imagine myself again among those animated specks of life I used to bring home in a jam jar from a childhood pond. Thus Jane Waller’s book, whatever her intentions, passes the ultimate test: it is very readable – for every age group.’
Peter Dance, Times Literary Supplement, 26/3/82
‘As a boy I was captivated by pond life. Those whirling, darting, gyrating specks of life revealed by a cheap brass microscope were my especial favourites and often I looked at them with such concentration that I could imagine myself among them. Momentarily I could be reduced to their size and could occupy their frantic microcosm. Possibly Jane Waller’s imagination was similarly stimulated at one time and gave her the idea for Below the Green Pond, a story mixing fact and fantasy in absolutely equal proportions.’