Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ribbit Rhapsody

One of the sweetest, neatest sounds and a sure sign winter is leaving, is stepping out for a final walk before bed to hear a chorus of spring peepers; the silence of the night filled with their distinctive notes. Many a summer my gardens have been home for toads large and small, gobbling up insects.  Last year a tree toad set up residence on the box for my decorative lights right outside my front door.  Napping during the day would give him the energy to climb my siding in the evening using his gripper toes.

Dinosaurs may have vanished but frogs remained adapting to the conditions found in various parts of the world they call home.  In Frog Song (Henry Holt and Company, February, 2013), written by Brenda Z. Guiberson with illustrations by Gennady Spirin, readers visit six of the seven continents as introductions to eleven distinctive frogs (and toads) are made.  While differences and similarities are a focus all are tied together by a common thread.

A frog song 
is a celebration
of clean water, plants,
and insects to eat.

As long as the music of frogs is being made all is well in their respective habitats.  Like the instruments in an orchestra each contributes a specific sound to the overall symphonic world score.  Rain forest tree tops, spider holes, muddy swamps, beech forests, dried pond beds, deserts and waterfalls will resonate with their cheerful chatter.

From the strawberry poison dart frog in Costa Rica who carries each of her five tadpoles to a separate pool of water high in the trees to the Great Plains narrow-mouth toad found in Oklahoma who lives in a tarantula hole freeing it of insects to the Surinam toad living in Ecuador who carries one hundred eggs under her skin until they hatch or to Ethiopia where we find the shovel-nosed frog who digs a place for her eggs until the floods come, we are informed of parenthood rituals.  For some it's the male who provides the protection and care; in Spain the male midwife toad carries the eggs in a string on his back until the tadpoles start to squiggle or in Chile the Darwin's frog places about thirty tadpoles inside his vocal sacs for seven weeks until they hop from his open mouth. Whether it's a psst-psst, buzzbuzzbuzz, click-clackbonk...bonk...bonk or tinktinktinktink, each tune signifies a particular presence to a careful listener. 

For each of the eleven frogs Brenda Z. Guiberson has penned a paragraph embedded with facts.  Use of alliteration, onomatopoeia and descriptive verbs serve to deliver the well-researched details of their songs and young; trills, belt out, rattles or bellows.  Readers are immediately taken to a geographic setting as Guiberson begins each section with In...

Upon opening the jacket the strawberry poison dart frog on the front is extended to the back to complete a stunning portrayal.  The cover, front and back, is a completely different, equally impressive illustration featuring an enormous bellied frog with others among lilies, pads and reeds.  Identical opening and closing endpapers are a gorgeous display of flora fit for the frog inhabitants.

Using tempra, watercolor, and pencil on arches watercolor paper Gennady Spirin works his magic creating masterful, intricate two-page spreads for each frog; the narrative carefully inserted into the design.  Lush, realistic settings including appropriate flora and fauna surround the close-up of the showcased amphibians.  The title page, verso, dedication, Frogs in Trouble (author's note), Bibliography and Frog Facts Online are framed with delicate plants and the same frogs seen in the endpapers.

Reading Frog Song written by Brenda Z. Guiberson with illustrations by Gennady Spirin aloud is as much a joy for one's ears as seeing the pictures is a delight for one's eyes; combining the two sends this piece of nonfiction soaring to greatness.  For more information about the author and illustrator follow the links embedded in their names leading to their official websites.  This link is to the publisher website highlighting eight pictures from the title.  Be sure to watch them full screen.  For a four page teacher's guide follow this link.

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