The Secret Pool by Kimberley Ridley, illustrated by Rebekah Raye
Vernal pools are easy to miss, but also necessary to the life of many animals. This nonfiction picture book explores the amazing things that happen in vernal pools throughout the seasons. It begins with defining what a vernal pool is and then quickly moves into spring. The fascinating lives of frogs are described, including the way they make it through the winter. Soon salamanders join them and breed in the pool. Tiny fairy shrimp appear too. As summer comes, the eggs of the salamanders and frogs hatch and soon there are tadpoles and larvae in the pools. Now the race begins to see if they can climb ashore before the pool dries up. The vernal pool disappears and the animals that live there and were born there move away. They will return again with the spring and the vernal pools.
Ridley has nicely created a book that can be used at two levels. The larger text can be shared as almost a story about the pools. Then the smaller text provides deeper information about the vernal pools and the animals. Her words work together well, the simpler text offers a poetic voice to the factual information that serves to remind us how amazing all of this actually is.
Raye’s illustrations are lush and minutely detailed. She offers both larger scale images of the animals and then others done with finer lines that show more details and more animals on the page. You never know what you will see on the next page, and I guarantee a jump of surprise when you see the bullfrog with the tadpole hanging out of his mouth like a tongue.
This book reveals a world right under our feet that most children never knew existed. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Ah ha! by Jeff Mack
A picture book told in just two letters and four words! Frog is all set to have a relaxing day at the pond (AAHH) when a boy and his dog appear and scoop him into a jar (AH HA!) But Frog escapes out into the pond once more and settles down on a rock. It isn’t a rock and suddenly a hungry turtle is after Frog (AH HA!) Frog escapes once again (AAHH) but finds himself being chomped at by an alligator (AH HA!) Frog clings to a reed, except it isn’t a reed, it’s a bird’s leg and he has to escape once again. Right into the boy’s jar. (AH HA!)
With a similar feel to his Good News, Bad News picture book, Mack once again creates a book that is very cleverly done. Despite being written with just a few words and two letters, this book tells a complete story that has a wonderful pacing. With all of the wild predators that Frog faces, the book’s pages will turn quickly.
Mack’s art is vibrant and colorful. He draws in a large format that will work well when used with a group. Even his words are large enough to be read by an audience. The art has a friendly feel to it, cartoony and bright.
This one is ideal for new readers who are just starting out or for toddlers who will enjoy the fast pace and the shortness of the text. It would also make a great inspiration for a writing challenge using only a few words to tell a complete story. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueiro, illustrated by Poly Bernatene
One morning, the frogs in the pond woke up to discover a very pink visitor among them: a little pink pig. They tried to ask the piglet why he was there, but all he would say was “Ribbit!” The other animals soon heard about the unusual pig and hurried to the pond to see him. All of the animals except the frogs found the entire situation hilarious, but the frogs were getting more and more angry. The animals went in search of the wise old beetle to ask his advice, but when they returned the pig was gone. All of the animals began to wonder what the pig had wanted all along and it wasn’t too late to find out!
Folgueira has created a book with the feel of a traditional folktale but one that also has the humor and feel of a modern story. Told in a clear voice, the book invites readers to wonder about what is actually happening in the book. Happily, the ending ends the questions, but until then there is plenty to think about.
Bernatene’s illustrations have bright tones and fine lines. The watercolor texture of the pages and the pictures add a welcome rustic warmth to the story that suits it well. She has also created one of the most engaging little pigs, with a merry grin and closed eyes formed out of just a few curved lines. Pink perfection.
This is a look at friendship and also at cultures and what happens when someone steps out of their own comfort zone and begins to explore new things. In the end though, it’s a delight of a read aloud that children will enjoy for just the story alone. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.
Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin
This is one breathtaking nonfiction book about frogs. The book takes a look at various fascinating species from around the world, explaining what makes that species so special. Delving deeper than skin deep, the strawberry poison dart frog from the cover is celebrated for the unique way she lays her eggs: five at a time and then when the tadpoles emerge she carries each of them to their own pool of water up in the trees. Each turn of the page brings another strange and amazing frog with its own unique approach to life. This is a celebration of frogs that is sure to enthrall any young biologist.
Guiberson has carefully selected frogs that are incredible and unique. Her writing is filled with frog noises, motion, and even the sounds that whipping a gooey mass of eggs into a ball of bubbles would make. This adds a certain zing to the writing, making it great fun to read aloud. You must have your ribbit on to pull this one off.
Spirin’s illustrations are simply amazing. Filled with more all the great details you would get from a photograph, they are superbly realistic. Turning the pages shows the breadth of frog life on our planet. The vitality and also the fragility of these animals is highlighted in her art.
Beautiful, intriguing and great fun to read, this book is an impressive testament to the importance of frogs in our ecosystems. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.
Frog and Fly: Six Slurpy Stories by Jeff Mack
Six very short stories about a frog and a fly are told here. Done in comic panels, the stories are all simple and quite funny. In each story, the frog meets a fly and ends up not really making friends but instead making lunch. Each story is slightly different and filled with little puns. The frog manages to cleverly lure the fly closer by talking with it, but eventually just slurps that fly right up. The arc of the first two stories is very similar. The third brings in ketchup and a burger. The fourth has different animals shooing the fly away from them, until the frog welcomes the fly closer. The fifth story has races between the frog and fly that the fly wins over and over again, until the final one. The sixth story has the frog get his comeuppance much to the glee of the fly. Slurp!
Mack has tapped right into the sense of humor of preschoolers with these stories. The running gag of eating the fly makes the final story all the more satisfying with its twist. This is the sort of book that my two sons would have loved at that age, laughing along with delight. It’s one that reads aloud very nicely, and even better, gives you the opportunity to work on a fly voice and a frog ribbit.
Mack’s illustrations are simple and colorful. The lines are crisp and clean, echoing the thickness of the font used for their dialogue. They reflect the humor of the entire book, with silly grins and a big pink slurping tongue.
Sure to get laughs at preschool story time, this makes a silly addition to any story time on frogs or flies. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.
Leap Back Home to Me by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
A little frog takes his first small leaps over a ladybug, over a bee, and over the clover before returning to his waiting mother. His leaps get bigger and he leaps over the creek and over the beavers. Then they get even bigger, leaping over trees and hills! After every outing he returns to his mother who is waiting for him with either a book to share, food to eat or a hug. Soon the little frog is leaping out into space and the stars, but no fear, his mother is still there for him.
Thompson has created a picture book that is very simple with just a few lines on each page and a gentle concept. Her text has an infectious rhythm to it, adding to the jaunty tone of the book. The humor of the book builds as the little frog leaps over larger and larger things. Children will love the humor and will delight in the final pages as the little frog enters outer space.
Cordell’s illustrations echo the jaunty tone of the text and add a friendliness, warmth and plenty of color to the story. The little frog soars into the sky with a joyous freedom, his froggy legs and arms waving merrily.
An ideal book for toddler story times featuring frogs, this is sure to become a favorite of young listeners. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Also reviewed by 100 Scope Notes.
999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura, illustrated by Yasunari Murakami
Released May 1, 2011.
999 tadpoles are born in a small pond but when they turn into frogs, they completely run out of room to even breathe! So mother and father frog decide they must find a new home to live in. All of the 999 tadpoles follow their father across a big field. He warns them about the dangers of snakes, just a moment before the little frogs come dragging a sleepy snake up to him. They escape that danger, but don’t notice the hawk circling above them. Down comes the hawk and grabs the father frog in his talons. But when he flies up into the sky again, it is not just the father frog that comes along for the ride, but all of the frog family. It’s a much heavier load than the hawk can manage, but what will happen if the frogs are dropped?
Kimura has written a book is a friendly, conversational style that is a pleasure to read aloud. The voices of the little frogs and their parents are clear and individual. Get ready to speak in more than one froggy voice for this book! Kimura has also built plenty of action into his story which has adventure and dangers that will keep children’s attention.
Murakami’s illustrations create a very unique feel to the book. Using white space to great effect, the polished yet simple illustrations have a graphic appeal to them. With so many of the illustrations being shown from the overhead perspective, the humor of the number of little frogs is never lost.
A book about tadpoles and frogs that focuses on fun, family, and humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from NorthSouth Books.
Also reviewed by Kids Book Review.
Ribbit Rabbit by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Mike Lowery
Frog and Bunny are the best of friend. They swim together. Fight monsters together. Even share peanut butter sandwiches. But sometimes something happens and they stop getting along. Like when they find a robot with a key. One of them ends up with the robot, the other with the key. And they don’t want to share. After a bit of alone time though, they come together ready to share and have fun once again.
Ryan’s text is such fun to read aloud. It trips, gallops, dashes and dances on the tongue. The rhythm of the book is a delight and the silly rhymes add joy to the book. It is impossible to read it without grinning.
Lowery’s illustrations have a wonderful modern, fresh feel to them. Done in pencil, screen printing and print gocco, they are finished digitally. They have a simplicity that works well here. The soft colors have an intriguing pop to them and the texture from the screen printing adds to the appeal.
Highly recommended, this is a top choice for toddler and preschool story times. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.
Also reviewed by The Bookbag and Young Readers.
Balancing Act by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Two mice put together a stick and rock to make a teeter-totter. With one mouse on each end, they balance. But when a salamander wants to join in, the teeter-totter tips, until another salamander comes along. When one frog jumps in, the teeter-totter really tips, but balance is restored with another jumping frog coming on. Trouble comes along though when a bird wants to join in too. For a little while there is balance with all of the animals on one side and the bird on the other. But then the weight is too much for the stick. All of the animals except the mice head off to do something else. The mice? Well, they still have a stick and a rock…
Stoll Walsh has a way with simple stories that really allows them to shine. Her use of very basic text allows her books to be used with very young children. Her art is also simplicity itself with its paper collage on a white background. She uses great color as the animals join in with a bright red salamander, teal frog and blue bird. At the same time as she is giving an engaging story, she is also introducing the concept of balancing and how to add objects together to make two sides equal. A book that offers basic math concepts in such a gentle and enjoyable way is very special.
A jolly picture book that offers equal story and concept for preschoolers. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
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:
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