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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Toad Weather, written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Peachtree, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $21.95 ages 5 and up

"That's the surprise!"
Mama takes our hands
and tugs us with her,
through the drippy,
slowing-down rain,
to the end of the block.
All the while
the sound gets louder."

When Mama comes home on a rainy night asking Ally and her grandmother to join her in an excursion, the two are not impressed. They don't really like the rainy, wet conditions and can't think of a good reason for being out in it. Mama assures them they are in for a big surprise if the accompany her. Reluctantly, they agree.

As they walk Mama encourages them to take the time to enjoy what there is to see.

"So I do.
I see awnings dripping.
Cardboard boxes melting.
Passing cars pushing up waves so high
that people jump back from the curb."

They are not yet surprised; both are becoming impatient. Mama is certain they are going to love what is coming. They continue to take note of the many wet and wonderful things there are to see. Suddenly, they become aware of a different sound, one they do not hear every day. Can this be the surprise?

Indeed, it can. Soon, the three come upon a detour sign: TOAD DETOUR. What can it mean? Mama explains:

"Over a few weeks each spring," Mama says,
"when it's perfect toad weather - like tonight -
they head to the water to mate and lay their eggs."

The trouble is that the pond is on the other side of the road from where they make their homes for the rest of the year. The toads need help to make it safely to that pond. Many concerned people are there to help, including Mama, Ally and Grandma. Once they have helped the toads cross the busy road, they are ready to head back home, happy to have been of help when they were needed.

Sandra Markle is a prolific writer whose work informs and inspires. She lets her audience know - in  an author's note - that toad migration is a real event and that helpers are needed to ensure that the toads are protected as they search for a breeding ground. Thomas Gonzalez uses pastels and colored pencils to create warm images of a family on a mission, and their rain-soaked neighborhood. He ensures that we always know where Ally is by looking for her beautiful polka-dot rain boots. Infusing light into the images he creates, we experience the warm glow of the family's shared experience and bask in the wonder of community.

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