I read two things today – one that I shouldn’t have read and the other that made it all better. First, I stupidly couldn’t stop myself from reading the last page of the July issue of The Atlantic where a number of distinguished people speculate on how the world will end. Don’t look. I’ll only say that added to my long list of things to worry about are volcanic eruptions and tidal waves. Luckily, I found the perfect antidote to those gloomy scenarios – and not surprisingly, it was a picture book. By the time I finished reading Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins, I was able to breathe again. Jenkins’s sweet book reminded me of the equally powerful forces of family and friends and the simple pleasures that are all around us.
The subtitle of Jenkins’s book is “A Book About Water and The Times of the Day,” and that’s exactly what it is. Based on the author’s own observations of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Water in the Park follows a day in the life of a neighborhood park on a summer day. “Today, as soon as Bingo (the first dog) and his human (the first human) reach the pond, the turtles slip off their rocks. More dogs, arrive already panting in the heat.” From there, the reader meets other dogs (including Little Nonny and Mr. Fluffynut), babies being held by their mothers, kids dumping water into the sandbox, older people feeding the fish in a pond, and of course, a skinned knee.
Here are five reasons why Water in the Park was the first book I purchased for the school year ahead:
1. There is lots to look at . The detailed illustrations by Stephianie Graegin lend themselves to a seek and find game.
2. This would be a great book for young children to begin conversations about the cycle of a day and the many ways we use water.
3. The world portrayed in this book is diverse – the park is joyously busy with families and friends that reflect the value of our increasingly connected world.
4. There are lots of things happening in this book, but they are reported. There’s not really a narrative arc. But that opens a window for discussion between the child and the adult parent or teacher. The recurring characters made it possible for a child to create their own story!
5. Is that a Starbucks cup on page 3?
So skip the warnings about tidal waves. There’s not much we can do about it, but…. we can fill our days with family, friends and wonderful books like this one.
By the way, here’s Mr. Fluffynut with a tennis ball in his mouth. He may have the best name of any dog in children’s books!