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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Frog Song, written by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by Gennady Spirin. Henry Holt, Macmillian. Raincoast, 2013. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"In Canada, the wood frog bursts out with a song in a mossy bog. BRACKBRACK! The female attaches a mass of eggs to underwater plants. Many eggs and tadpoles will be eaten by fish and birds, but some will become frogs that can freeze in the winter and thaw in spring."

I was rubbing my hands in anticipation of opening this new book to see what was inside. First, I had to pore over the beauty of the cover itself! The illustration of the strawberry poison dart frog (I didn't know that until I ventured further) sitting atop a textured leaf is bathed in light and shadow and sports such beautiful color and markings. It gave me pause. Then, I was ready to move on...

Stalled again...on the endpapers! Resplendent in the greens and browns of frog life, I was dazzled by the abundance pictured here. The title page is an invitation to pass through the gate created and enter the world of some of the world's amazing creatures. Each of the 11 frog species shown have a song and they are sung in a variety of places...a tree, a bog, a burrow and even in logs. Each turn of the page shows us a different place in the world, a new species and offers a most interesting look at the way they bear and protect their offspring.

I cannot choose a favorite from the diversity presented, but one that I found especially intriguing is the Darwin's frog  in Chile:

"The male guards 30 eggs in the damp leaves for three weeks. When the tadpoles wiggle, he scoops them into his mouth. SLURP! They slither into his vocal sacs, where he keeps them safe and moist for seven weeks. Then he gives a big yawn, and little froglets pop out."

That is patience, don't you think?

Gennady Spirin's detailed paintings are done using tempera, watercolor and pencil and are so realistic, you almost expect them to hop right off the page. His artwork enhances the unique and fascinating beauty of the species included. Budding biologists will find much to love here. Even if you are not, and never have been, a frog fan, you will come away from the reading with a renewed respect for the diversity of ways that frogs have evolved to have and care for their young.

There is lots of noise here, too. I know I will have to practice my 'frog songs' before ever attempting to share it with a group of young listeners. I'm sure they will be happy to help!

The backmatter includes some information concerning their needs to survive, a bibliography and a list of online websites where more information can be found. As well, Ms. Guiberson returns to each of the featured frogs and offers up a further bit of information:

Range: From northern Georgia and northeastern Canada to Alaska and British Columbia.
Length: Averages about 2 inches.
Quick fact: This frog can live north of the Arctic Circle and survives being frozen all winter. It comes out of hibernation before all the ice has melted along streams and is the first frog to deposit eggs."

The author's last entry on a double page spread featuring huge dinosaurs in a lush, green expanse and a tiny frog watching them with concentration and interest offers this thought:

"A frog song is a celebration of clean water, plants and insects to eat. CHIROOP, PRIBBLE! Thousands of frog species have been singing and zapping since the time of the dinosaurs. Every day, in so many places, they add their ribbits and bellows to the  music of the earth."

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