Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Secret Pool

The Secret Pool

Kimberly Ridley
Illustrator:  Rebekah Raye 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Tilbury House, 2013   ISBN: 978-0884483397

Every spring vernal pools appear in woods and meadows. They are temporary gifts that spring brings to the animals in these habitats, and they can be “as small as a puddle or a big as a pond.” Melted snow or rain fill depressions in the earth and the pools that form are a perfect place for creatures that do not need water year round, creatures such as frogs, salamanders and freshwater shrimp.

   Often the first visitors who appear in vernal pools are frogs, and in the northeastern parts of North America the frogs that come to vernal pools in early spring are wood frogs, which make a noise that sounds like a quacking duck. These remarkable amphibians spend the cold winter months as frozen “frogsicles.” They may look dead, but when spring arrives with warmer temperatures, the frozen frogs thaw out. They make their way to vernal pools to mate and lay their eggs. At night another amphibian will visit vernal pools to breed. These are spotted salamanders, secretive creatures that animals and humans rarely see.  

   Frogs and salamanders are not the only ones who lay their eggs in vernal pools. Fairy shrimp eggs have to freeze and dry out before they can hatch, so the eggs we see in vernal pools were laid a year ago. Vernal pool and other temporary wet habitats are the only places where fairy shrimp can be found.

   After the frogs and salamanders are gone, the vernal pools are quiet, but a lot is happening in them. The eggs that were laid by the amphibians are developing and then one day they hatch and the water is full of wriggling tadpoles and salamander larvae. These creatures attract birds, snakes, bullfrogs and turtles, which are happy to dine on the little amphibians.

   In this beautifully illustrated book we follow the story of a vernal pool from early spring when it forms, through summer, and into early fall when it is just “a whisper of wet.” We hear its ‘voice’ as it tells us what is happening in its waters. We meet the creatures that live in and around the pool, and come to appreciate how important these temporary habitats are to plants and animals. Side bars on every spread provide more detailed information about the pools and the roles that they play in ecosystems. Young children will enjoy listening to the narrative, while older children will be drawn to the sidebars where they will encounter all kinds of interesting facts about plants, animals, and ecology in general.