Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lagoon Lifeguard: Nathan Saves Summer by Gerry Renert

At the beginning of every summer, Nathan volunteered to be the pond lifeguard. He demonstrated how long he could hold his breath underwater. He showed everyone how many animals he could carry at once. If he had to, he even floated on his back, becoming a perfect raft.

But every summer the animals came up with reasons why Nathan shouldn't be the pond lifeguard.

"Nathan! Relax and enjoy your vacation. It's too hot to work all day."

Now a hippo has the right stuff to be a lifeguard, right? After all, he's a water-dwelling mammal who with his extensive belly has a built-in flotation belt. The vacationing jungle animals, however, see the conflict between the small pond that is their summer resort and the avoirdupois-challenged Nathan's, er, significant body mass. Finally, after poor Nathan has spent his own hard-saved money to equip himself with full XXXXL-sized lifeguard gear, the animals just have to 'fess up with the real reason for the rejection...

The animals stared at Nathan. Finally one of the hyenas blurted out, "Nathan, you can't be the lifeguard because... because you're just too large!"

Nathan sighed. "Maybe it's not me who is too large. Maybe it's the pond that's too small!"

Nathan sadly sees that, the pond being what it is, his career in lifesaving is a no-go. But that night while he broods all alone he hears a violent splashing in the pond. Diving in with a significant splash, he rescues a thrashing tiger cub and tenderly wipes the water from his face. Strangely, the drowning victim is not appreciative.

Nathan looked around and couldn't believe his eyes. All the water was gone!

A crowd of animals gathered and stared in disbelief at what was once their pond.

Looking upset, the tiger cub said, "Nathan, I was just trying to dive for a fish!"

With their beloved pond now reduced to a puddle, Nathan the hippo is really in the jungle doghouse.

But, wonder of wonders. Down the hill the animals discover that the water from their pond has now joined with a tidal pool to form a lovely lagoon, big enough for all of them and for the largest and happiest lifeguard in the jungle--Nathan. It's a happy ending, with a weighty moral: sometimes heft is a handicap, but sometimes being hefty comes in handy!

Carrie Bradshaw's witty illustrations of the frustrated Nathan carry much of the weight in this simple tale of dreams realized despite all in Gerry Renert's gently humorous Nathan Saves Summer (Raven Tree Press, 2010).

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