Scoot! by Cathryn Falwell
Greenwillow Books, 2008.
Six turtles lay still on a log on a sunny summer's day while all manner of pond activity unfolds around them. Frogs leap, birds flutter, salamanders scurry, and dragonflies flit until the turtles' log breaks loose and off they float across the pond.
Cut-paper illustrations have long been a favourite format of mine, and Scoot! is a prime example of why. The layering gives a distinct third dimension to the images (to the point where I'm convinced that if I run my finger over the page I'll accidentally bend up a strider's leg and have to glue it down again), and the colours and textures are wonderful. The pond water is shades of blue, purple, and white, and the birds' wings and rocky shoreline are just phenomenally depicted. The action is shown from many different angles, from ground level to directly overhead, and the creatures seem to move across the page. I've been gazing at the illustrations for ages and still haven't had my fill.
The rhyming text is equally lovely. It is full of action words that are not in the average 6-year-old's vocabulary (hover, scuttle, lurch) but which accurately and vividly portray the critters' movements. The critters themselves are very diverse, realistically reflecting pond life: insects, birds, mammals, and amphibians are all represented. Think ponds are quiet? Not after reading this book!
As an added bonus, Cathryn Falwell gives background about why she created this book (including a shot of her extremely cool tree house), additional factoids about the creatures portrayed throughout the story, and suggested techniques for printing textures on paper. I particularly enjoyed her dedication: "For my dad, Warren Falwell, who sent me outside to play." Indeed.
As an introduction to the diversity of life at an average pond or as an example of a wide variety of verbs, Scoot! is hard to beat. And wonderful to look at to boot.