Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Frog and Friends (Cybils Nominee)

Plenty of contemporary books for beginning readers are hip and cutting edge. I'm thinking specifically of Jon Klassens's I Want My Hat Back with its sly humor and muted, understated illustrations. I love I Want My Hat Back, but I also love Frog and Friends, a more traditional, dare I say, old-fashioned beginning reader.

Eve Bunting has crafted three charming stories all featuring Frog, a laid-back amphibian who enjoys hanging out with his friends Rabbit, Possum, Raccoon, and Squirrel. In the opening tale--my favorite of the three--Frog wakes to discover a round orange THING with a long tail floating in his pond. He calls to his friends and they in turn are mystified as well. When THING (a balloon) tragically bursts, the remorseful group believe they have killed it and hold a funeral (hilarious). What I especially like is that the story ends with them never figuring out what THING is.

The second story is about a blue scarf Raccoon knits for Frog, suffering with a cold. Not able to wear it, Frog re-gifts, and the scarf makes the rounds before returning full circle to Frog, who thanks to Possum, is able to secure the scarf and wear it. In "Frog and Hippo," the final story, Frog shares his pond with an escapee hippo from a nearby zoo and tries to convince him to return home.

Readers who enjoy Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books are sure to become fans of Frog and Friends. Eve Bunting has perfect pitch when it comes to beginning readers. The action is briskly paced, the dialog snappy, and the humor is never forced but comes naturally out of the situation. Josee Masse did a terrific job with illustrations that compliment, not take over the text.  

Also reviewed at Secrets and Sharing Soda.

Frog and Friends
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by Josee Masse
Sleeping Bear Press  40 pages
Published: July 2011

This book was nominated for the 2011 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, and this review reflects my opinion only.

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