March 12, 2020


At the Pond by Geraldo Valério is a wordless masterpiece about the intersection of empathy and nature.

A small dog waits for his walk outside a cabin in a dark wood. Chained up by a yellow leash, the dog's disappointment is hardly abated when a young child finally shows up to walk him but doesn't remove the leash. Minutes into their walk, though, the two stumble upon a magical world of snowy swans, and their imaginations are brought to technicolor life as they interact with the animals they meet. The child even removes the dog's collar so he can chase butterflies! While riding a swan, the boy attempts to collar the bird to keep himself steady. A storm appears, teaching the young child about the inherent darkness of captivity, and as the boy drops the leash into the water, the storm immediately dissipates and the two float back to the shore.

The illustrations are rendered with acrylics, colored pencils, gouache, graphite pencils, latex paints, and markers. With the collar in the picture, literally everything is darker: the bright yellow chain stands out starkly against the dull surrounding woods, which consist of various hues of gray and blue. But the colors become full-blown as child and dog dive deeper into their journey, and the grays disappear entirely the moment the child releases the dog of its collar. When the swans inevitably fly off, presumably heading south for the winter, they leave behind a colorful and imaginative world for the boy and dog to continue to explore.

At the Pond published last week from Groundwood Books.

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