Theodore Seuss Geisel Award winners for 2015 (You Are (Not) Small) Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant deliver to readers another delightful tale. Can I Tell You a Secret? (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, May 31, 2016) explores the dilemma of whether to keep or share a secret. Some secrets are harder or bigger or both than others.
Could you come here for a sec?
This small green frog asks us to come nearer and nearer. When he is satisfied we are close enough, he reveals that he has a secret. You know he wants to tell you his secret but he has to make sure without a doubt you will not tell another single soul.
When he is secure in the knowledge you can be trusted, the truth is shared. He cannot swim. He is afraid of the water. As you can imagine this is a huge problem for a frog. He's carried this conundrum with him since he was a wee tadpole.
Continuing his conversation with us, his readers, he goes further explaining how he has guarded this knowledge. Our friendly frog is very clever but getting pretty pooped with this predicament. His response to a statement lets us know the unseen conversationalist (us) suggests he tell his parents. This is much easier said than done.
Does he do it the first time? Does he do it the second time? Will the third try be the charm? Montague (Monty) has no idea how his parents are going to respond. Wonderful surprises greet readers.
Author Anna Kang speaks throughout this story with the sure understanding of a child's perspective. The conversational exchanges between Monty, the frog child, and the reader are genuine. The sentences are short and easily understood. The purposeful punctuation conveys the heartfelt emotion in this set of circumstances. Here are two sample passages.
And I am very sad.
Because I really want to swim.
I'm a frog, after all!
What should I do?
What's that? You think I should tell someone?
Like my parents?
Are you sure? POSITIVE?
You wouldn't lie to me, right?
On the matching dust jacket and book case, on the front, readers meet an exceedingly concerned guy. He stands out to readers with his coloring and expressive eyes on a background of white. We are also drawn to the red in the title text. To the left, on the back of the opened jacket and case, an interior image is displayed. Looking directly at us, posed on a cattail over the resting lily pads in the pond, he asks what we are already thinking. How can a frog keep this kind of secret? The opening and closing endpapers are covered in a vivid frog green.
A two page illustration covers the formal title page. Frogs are lined up on a cattail as if it's a diving board over the pond. A lifeguard is on duty. Our frog friend is off to the right side sitting on a rock, looking rather forlorn.
Throughout the title the white canvas works to superb effect highlighting every mood. Christopher Weyant rendered the pictures with watercolors and ink on 260 lb Arches paper. His visuals extend the text on either two pages, single pages or two images on a single page. The eyes on his frogs are pure happiness. When he zooms in on Monty we can feel the intensity of the situation. (Attentive readers will spot the Easter egg.) Weyant closes the book with an illustration similar to the first one but noticeably different on the dedication and verso pages.
One of several favorite illustrations is when Monty is showing us how he maintains his secret. In a single page image he is clinging to the leg of a heron. The bird cranes its neck downward, scowling at the young frog. Another frog peeks out of the water wondering at Monty's tactic. A dragonfly hovers, watching. Cattails frame the bottom of the picture, the pond.
You simply can't help but smile reading Can I Tell You a Secret? written by Anna Kang with illustrations by Christopher Weyant. The blend of narrative and illustrations is, regardless of Monty's secret, full of joy and compassion. I have to say I burst out laughing at the last twist at the end. I can already hear the requests of read it again.
To learn more about Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. After the publication of their first two books, Anna Kang was interviewed at Cracking The Cover.