City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J. Muth

I was a little concerned about a book by Willems that he didn’t illustrate himself, but I shouldn’t have.  This book is a rich exploration of friendship.  A dog who has never lived in the country before runs out through the fields and comes upon a frog sitting on a rock near the water.  The frog immediately invites the dog to be his friend and the two play frog games together that spring.  When summer comes, the dog and frog play city dog games together, including fetch.  In the fall, the frog is growing old and tired.  So the two play remembering games together, thinking of spring and summer and the games they played.  Then winter came and when the dog headed to the rock, the frog wasn’t there.  Then spring came again, and this time the dog was the one sitting on the rock waiting for a friend.  And guess who came?  A new and unexpected friend.

This book is about friendship, that deep and abiding type of friendship that is about connection.  It is also about loss and it captures it so vividly that children will immediately understand the gravity of winter and exactly what the dog is experiencing.  It is a very powerful moment, depicted in deep blues of winter cold and silence in the text.  Beautifully captured.  At the same time though, it is a book about friendship continuing, new friends arriving, and the ability to move on and resume.  Willem’s language is simple and adept, he says things is so few words yet captures feelings perfectly.  Muth’s illustrations really capture the seasons. One can almost smell the grass of spring, the autumn leaves, and the crisp snowy air.  He also imbues the animals’ faces with deep emotions yet makes sure that they are still dogs and frogs. 

Highly recommended, this pairing of author and illustrator has created an amazing story that is deep and moving.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.  Make sure when you share this with a child that there is time to talk afterwards, it is sure to start a conversation.

Reviewed from library copy.

Check out the trailer that Mo Willems created for the book:

Also reviewed by: