The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra
Released September 11, 2012.
Upon opening this graphic novel, I was surprised. Fine-lined black and white images that invite readers into an equally surprising story. Leah and Alan wake up in an enchanted forest, not knowing how they got there or where they are. Luckily, there is a stone frog to tell them which way to head and not to leave the path. When they spot a house off of the path though, they just have to see if the people who live there will give them some food. At the house, they discover huge bees in the garden and a woman with an enormous head who does invite them in for some cookies. But the bees are not normal bees, and they start to collect the words that Alan is saying, leaving him unable to speak. Leah manages to save his voice, but they are forced to flee. Of course, they leave the path again, this time to discover lions who speak and rabbits as mounts. There are more stone frogs, dark caves, unusual subways, and a strange city to explore. This graphic novel is a tribute to traditional fairy tales but has its own magic to work too.
I am very taken with this book. It is a modern version of an Alice in Wonderland story, complete with strange adult characters, an entire society that is warped and unusual, and discoveries around every corner. Nytra seems to delight in the peculiar in his book, which also delighted me. There are no explanations to this dreamy tale that sometimes verges closely to nightmare territory.
The art is unusual for a graphic novel, hearkening back more closely with old-fashioned tales than with a modern graphic novel. While Nytra does use panels throughout, the art itself is fine-lined, detailed and worthy of reader exploration too. It has a welcome surreal quality as well that suits the book well.
There is nothing better than a book that will surprise and delight you. That’s guaranteed in this graphic novel. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Toon Books.