Eve Bunting. Frog and Friends: Best Summer Ever. Illustrated by Josee Masse. Ann Arbor: Sleeping Bear Press, 2012. 45 pages.
Are frogs particularly gregarious animals? They seem to be the living embodiment of friendship in many kids books. There’s the legendary FROG AND TOAD stories, and now another friendly frog brightens up your kids’ reading in Eve Bunting’s FROG AND FRIENDS: BEST SUMMER EVER.
This is an ideal book for new readers and those transitioning into reading. It’s about halfway between the books for very, very young readers with one or two sentences on each page (e.g., most of Mo Willems’ excellent work) and full-on chapter books, with ample illustration to keep the kids’ attention and provide some context cues.
There are three stories here, and each focuses on one element of the eponymous frog’s friendship with others. The first is about diversity, and manages to communicate the fact that it’s OK to be friends with people who are different from you without being overtly preachy. We meet Frog and his friend, Little Brown Bat, who is very different from Frog, but they find plenty to do together anyway, like him impressing her with his long sticky tongue. I don’t think I ever expected to read the sentence, “That is a very handsome tongue” aloud, but thanks to this book, I now have–several times. An allusion is made late in the story to Frog’s other friends, who are basically other wild animals. Intriguingly, Hoppo is given “part-time friend” status.
In the next story, we meet those friends. Frog needs and change and wants a vacation, and ultimately all of his friends come with him, meaning he doesn’t get much of a vacation at all. Still, he says it’s the best vacation ever, and is energized to return to his usual routine of sitting on his napping rock and catching flies.
In the last story, Frog is visited by a man in a long black coat and a black cape who, unfortunately, looks nothing like Vincent Price (I just thought that would be pretty cool, and it would give me an excuse to try a Vincent Price voice while reading. He gives Frog and his friends stars, which they gain a new appreciation for. Again, most of the crew is involved, including Jumping Mouse, who doesn’t do much jumping. Rabbit is on maternity leave and stays home. It’s a cute way to get little ones thinking about astronomy.
All in all, this is a great book, whether you are reading it to your kids or they are reading it to you, with wonderful illustrations by Josee Masse. Highly recommended.