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Science Magazine December 7, 2007 - Recommended books for young readers

Vernal pools are shallow, seasonal ponds that are not linked to permanent streams and disappear for a while during most years. Thus, they usually lack fish, which makes them an ideal habitat for frogs, salamanders, and insect larvae. Wechsler describes the action at one such pool in a Delaware woods from its filling by autumnal rains, to the spring cacophony of male frogs seeking mates, and on through the inhabitants’ race against time as the summer sun dries up the pond. He weaves intriguing details about the biota and his own photos into this informative story of an underappreciated ecosystem.

Teaching Pre-K-8: The Magazine for Professional Development - February 2007

We learned so much from this children's book! We really didn't know what a vernal pool was before Doug Wechsler, the author, took us on a visit to one. We were taken through a year of vernal pool life ("frog heaven") and it was a fascinating journey. The text is accessible for many levels of readers because of the spectacularly detailed photographs. Kids will spend a great deal of time poring over them. You'll want this one for your classroom library as well as for the media center. Just $17.95 at your local bookstore.

School Library Journal - November 2006

This thoroughly researched book introduces a vernal pool in the woods of Delaware and documents the ecology of this unique habitat during the cycle of a year. Beginning with autumn, clear, detailed chapters focus on each season, describing physical changes to the pond (from dry, to wet, to ice-covered, to wet again), the creatures that breed and live there (including many types of insects and amphibians), and plant life. Throughout, Wechsler highlights the ways in which various species are interrelated and their role in the food web. The last section discusses the importance of these pools and how to prevent them from being destroyed. The full-color photographs vividly bring this environment to life by combining images of the changing pond with close-up pictures of its varied inhabitants. -Christine Markley, Washington Elementary School, Barto, PA

Booklist - November 1, 2006

-Frog Heaven: Ecology of a Vernal Pool by Doug Wechsler ISBN 1-59078-253-4

This handsome book looks closely at a vernal pool: a forest pool that dries up at the end of each summer and gradually fills with water again during the fall, winter, and spring. Naturalist/photographer Weschler offers a close-up view of a vernal pool in Delaware as it cycles through a year. Focusing on one animal after another, he shows not only the variety of life supported by the pool, but the complex, interconnected ecosystem that depends not just on the pool, but upon the fact that it dries up annually. This limits the animals it can support and creates an environment where certain species thrive, unthreatened by fish or by the year-round presence of certain other predators. Each of the first four chapters considers a season and the changes it brings to the pool and inhabitants, while the final chapter discusses the preservation of vernal pools. The book concludes with a glossary and a list of recommended books and Web sites. From a picture of the frozen pool in winter to a close-up of salamanders in the jelly covered eggs to a composite picture with superimposed lines showing the pool's food web, Weschler's clear color photos provide an excellent visual conterpoint to the text. This well-focused book will open readers' eyes to the vernal pool, an ecological feature they may have seen without recognizing it.---Carolyn Phelan

Kirkus Reviews - Sept. 15, 2006

In an apparently empty weedy area in the autumn woods, late rains begin a cycle of life in a Delaware vernal pool, providing a breeding place for 14 species of amphibians, as well as snakes, invertebrates and plants. Wechsler, an experienced naturalist and photographer, provides a clear explanation of the interdependence of the species and their surroundings and the importance of seasonally flooded pools not only in Delaware but across the country. His beautifully reproduced color photographs show the pond throughout the year from a distance, as well as many close-ups of its inhabitants. (A few require careful scrutiny and reading of the surrounding text for understanding.) After following the Delaware pond through four seasons, the author concludes with more general information about ephemeral pools and student action that helps preserve them. Endmatter includes a glossary, a few suggested readings (half are other books on amphibians by the author), two websites and an index. Attractive and informative, this will be welcomed by young naturalists and their teachers. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Frogs in Heaven Review

I really love the pictures in this book. The pictures of birds, frogs, snakes, and other animals were just fascinating! I loved reading that book. I loved reading about vernal pools. I recommend that other people read and look at this book. It is just fascinating.

Jacob , 6th grade Sheffield Middle School, Ohio

Friends of Wetlands (Friends of Wetlands) newsletter

Doug Wechsler's Frog Heaven: Ecology of a Vernal Pool does a great job of introducing this habitat through charming language and truly beautiful photographs that show plants and animals, from detailed closeups to more panoramic views of the pool. Mr. Wechsler takes the reader through the seasons at a gorgeous vernal pool in New Jersey [acutally, Delaware]. There is a careful and clear discussion of interactions among the dead plant leaves and other detrital materials that supply the pool's energy, the fungi and bacteria that start the energy pyramid, the protozoans, crustaceans, and insect larvae that form the next levels, all the way up to the amphibian larvae and their predators at the top. A clear and direct treatments of the breeding strategies and succession of a number of amphibians, including Wood Frogs, Marbled Salamanders, and Tiger Salamanders, is given. Conservation issues are brought up at the book's end.

Doug Wechsler's love and knowledge of vernal pools are glowingly evident throughout the book, but the treatment is neither saccharine nor dryly scientific. The book is recommended for fourth graders and older children, but I think anyone interested in the nature of vernal pools will be engrossed and informed; I know I was.

- John Katko, president, FOWL

Frog Heaven cover