Saturday 12 December 2009

National Post article

Metatexts for kids

By Beverley Brenna

The digital age has prompted developments in children’s literature consistent with the changing forms and formats, changing perspectives and changing boundaries that readers of all ages are experiencing. Described in terms of Radical Change theory by Dr. Eliza Dresang, a professor at the University of Washington, some of these changes within books are evident in the five picture books shortlisted for the 2009 Governor General’s Award for children’s literature (illustration). ...

Tim Beiser’s Bradley McGogg the Very Fine Frog (Tundra, 24 pp.; $19.99), illustrated by Rachel Berman, performs in rhyming couplets the story of Bradley’s quest for a suitable meal. Berman’s watercolour gouache on rag paper extends outside its frames, a decision implying the story’s awareness of itself in an illustrative attempt at “metafiction.” Very traditional, however, is the perspective that different creatures eat different things, inspiring Bradley to criticize the choices of others as “strange.” Listed for ages two to five, the complexity of the language and the hints at mystery in the dark patches of background illustration may be more suitable for ages five and up. ...

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Monday 23 November 2009

Eclectica Book Review

Picture Book Reading for Vacation Days

Review by Colleen Mondor
Eclectica Magazine

Bradley McGogg: The Very Fine Frog is one of those sweet old fashioned stories that features funny animals in odd situations echoing all the good things of Wind in the Willows and Peter Rabbit and every other similar past tale. Author Tim Beiser has written a rhyming text that explains the trials and tribulations of hungry Bradley who goes visiting his friends in search of a decent meal. Illustrator Rachel Berman uses rich color in her realistic paintings of animals at work and play who are dressed in fine clothing (the rabbit wears sneakers, even) and draw the reader into their creative environments. (Bradley sits on a stack of cookbooks. Herr Bear and Herr Hare are shown enjoying a meal of honey and carrots over a complete tea set and later there is a candelabra illuminating a meal of "maggots, mosquitoes, grasshoppers and snails" for our favorite frogs.) The message here is that everyone eats something different and what is good for one will likely be unappetizing for another. Poor Bradley would like to be a mooch but just can't bring himself to eat what everyone else is serving. The story has a happy ending that the rolling text will have lulled readers into expecting. Bradley is a kick in the pants; here's hoping this is not his only adventure.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

National Post article

You know, for kids books: a Q&A with the nominees for the Governor General's Literary Award in Children's Literature, Illustration

The nominees for the Governor General’s Literary Award in Children’s Literature, Illustration, introduce young readers to an eclectic cast of characters, including a hungry frog and a big fat momma, and send them to far-off locales including an island in Nunavut and, er, Newfoundland. Mark Medley spoke with the five artists about their work. ...

Rachel Berman, Bradley McGogg, The Very Fine Frog (text by Tim Beiser)

Q What kind of experience did you have illustrating frogs before this book?

A None.

Q None at all?

A No. And, actually, I used myself as a model. I’m sort of skinny and funny looking, and I didn’t have a frog, so I was leaping all over my studio trying to emulate [a] frog. I could sort of see him as a person, so I decided to use me.

Q He reminded me of Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows, but I like your explanation better.

A Oh, well, I’m not going to deny that I was influenced by The Wind in the Willows. I looked at every version of The Wind in the Willows, and also I wanted to do — being serious now — they said it was just going to be a paperback, like most children’s books are. And I thought OK, even if it’s paperback, I’m going to give children credit for some sort of sensibility. I wanted it to be like the books I remember as a child. I wanted to have it as art. I mean that’s what I do: I make art. And I didn’t see any reason why children shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt and think that they could appreciate really good art. ...

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Monday 16 November 2009

"Bradley" is a Toy Testing Council Top Pick!

Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog was named by the Canadian Toy Testing Council as one of the top 10 books of the year. According to the Council, "Children enjoy the clever rhymes and the engaging full-colour illustrations in this lively book."

For more information, go to this link:

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Blue Spruce Award Nomination

Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog has been nominated for the Ontario Librarary Association's 2010 Forest of Reading, Blue Spruce Award.

From the Ontario Library Association web site:

The Blue Spruce Award is a provincial primary reading program which brings recently published Canadian children's picture books to Ontario children ages 4 to 7 in kindergarten through to grade two. For many children, this is their first introduction to the world of books; it is a very exciting time for everyone.

The students will peruse ten nominated Canadian picture books and then vote for their favourite book. Based on student voting across the province, the best picture book is then selected and the author/illustrator is honoured with the Blue Spruce Award.

Wednesday 14 October 2009


From the Ingram Gallery web site:

Congratulations to Rachel Berman on her recent Governor General's Award nomination. Rachel has been nominated in the category of Illustration for children's literature for the her incredible watercolours illustrating the Tundra title: Bradley McGogg the Very Fine Frog. Written by Toronto based writer Tim Beiser, Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog was launched at Ingram Gallery in March of this year to huge success. The winner will be announced at 10am on November 17th in Montreal.


Saturday 21 March 2009

Globe and Mail Book Review

New in children's books

Globe and Mail
March 20, 2009


By Tim Beiser, illustrated by Rachel Berman, Tundra, 24 pages, $19.99, ages 2 to 5

A very fine frog indeed, is Bradley McGogg. Dressed in a pink striped Churchillian boiler suit with a pink-and-white polka-dot tie — a colour combination that nicely sets off the reptilian green of his complexion — Brad extols the virtues of the bog in which he makes his home: "'Oh, beautiful bog,' croaked McGogg./ 'What an Eden!/ You're filled to the gills with/ good frog things to feed on!'" One day, though, viewing himself in the mirror, McGogg declares that he's "needing a feeding. I'm wasting away!" With that, he's off, carried on waves of rhyme to visit Miss Mouse in her nest, Herr Bear and Herr Hare in their shared lair, and a lovely black and white cow in her field.

None of their offerings — cheese ("Cheddar with chives and a/ peppercorn dusting!/ He'd never seen anything/ quite so disgusting"), carrots glazed with honey or the cow's staples of grass and clover — tickle Brad's taste buds.

He returns home to a bog filled with "good frog things to feed on": "stinkbugs and sweet buzzy bees,/ flies, squirmy worms, crunchy roaches and fleas." Our frog McGogg declares, "Holy smokes! Other folks/ eat some pretty strange things."

This delightful excursion is made even more so because Rachel Berman's illustrations, interpretations of the miniature worlds of mouse nests and bear and hare picnics, are nothing short of entrancing.

Reviewed by

At Toronto's Gladstone Hotel

Sat March 21; 10AM (Doors 9:30AM)

Julie Morstad- ABC
Tim Beiser – Bradley McGogg The Very Fine Frog
David Bruins & Hilary Leung – The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear

Hosted by Emily Holton

Ever wish you could read a book and play a game at the same time? Acclaimed artist and author Emily Holton hosts a celebration of three titles that turn reading into a fun game. What better way to learn your ABCs than with a set of stunning flash cards created by celebrated Vancouver artist Julie Morstad? Finding out what animals like to eat becomes a sport in Bradley McGogg The Very Fine Frog, written by Tim Beiser and illustrated by Rachel Berman. And do you like “rock, paper, scissors’? If so, you’re going to adore The Legend Of Ninja, Cowboy, Bear, a delightful variation on the classic game by and Hilary Leung.

– A This is Not a Reading Series For Tots event presented by Pages Books & Magazines, Bunch, Gladstone Hotel and The Little Paper.

Gladstone Hotel Ballroom
1214 Queen St West, Toronto
Sat March 21; 10AM (Doors 9:30AM)
Adults $5 / Tots ride free

Tim Beiser: Pamela Osti,, (416) 598-0247
Emily Holton, David Bruins & Hilary Leung, TINARS For Tots: Chris Reed,, (416) 598-1447 ext 221
Julie Morstad: Jennifer Lynch,, (416) 934-9900 ext 202

Reading List


Bradley McGogg The Very Fine Frog

The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Book Review

Canadian Children's Book News
Winter 2009 issue

Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog
written by Tim Beiser
illustrated by Rachel Berman
Tundra Books, 2009
for preschool to Grade 2

Bradley McGogg is a fun book by Tim Beiser, a first time children's author better known as a magazine journalist. Written at the request of his Grade 1 neice, his story is sure to appeal to six-year-olds who will appreciate the humour and the rhyme. Rhyming stories are notoriously difficult to write, but here the scansion works and the rhyme (both internal and end rhymes) makes the story a delight to read out loud: "This log in a bog, where our frog spent his days/was a pad Brad had had since his pollywog phase." Discovering that his larder is bare, Bradley sets out to ask his neighbours to share what they eat. Though he is offered tasty treats by a mouse, a bear and a hare, he finds them all revolting. And he doesn't even linger to talk to the cow. Sadly he slogs back to his bog, only to discover a wonderful pest infestation! Digging into his wonderfully buggy meal, he muses that "other folks eat some pretty strange things." Children will giggle at the food choices and enjoy the gross-out factor. And teachers could have fun using it in nutrition units and for appreciating differences!

Rachel Berman has worked as a professional artist for over 30 years. A self-educated painter, she enjoys bringing out the character and humour of animals, as she did in Pigmalion (Orca Book Publishers, 2001). Berman's watercolour and gouache illustrations owe a debt to Arnold Lobel's wonderfully lumpy Frog and Toad and to his brown and green pallette. But Berman pops her frog into red-striped overalls that make him the focal point of every illustration. She continues her allusion to earlier children's books with Miss Mouse (à la Beatrix Potter) and a white rabbit in a jacket and waistcoat presiding at a tea party. Her vignettes, with their rounded corners, contribute to the charming old-fashioned quality of the book.

review by Brenda Halliday

Monday 9 March 2009

Ten Questions with Tim Beiser

The web site Open Book: Toronto is featuring an interview with author Tim Beiser about his upcoming book, Bradley McGogg the Very Fine Frog.

Open Book: Toronto celebrates the new and wonderful books, authors and events coming out with Ontario's independent, Canadian-owned publishers. Open Book is committed to showcasing the outstanding range and quality of contemporary Canadian writing and invites Torontonians to connect with their very own vibrant and cutting-edge publishing scene.

To read Open Book's interview with Tim Beiser, CLICK HERE.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Book Launch & Signing

Event date: Saturday, March 7, 2009
Time: Between 2 - 5 p.m.
Place: Ingram Gallery, 49 Avenue Rd, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 2G3, Canada
Phone: 416-929-2220

Rachel Berman will be traveling in to Toronto for the exhibition, book release and signing of Tundra Books' much anticipated new Children's title 'Bradley McGogg The Very Fine Frog' (2009). Accompanying the release, Berman's original watercolours for the book will be available.

In conjunction with Tundra Books, the launch will take place at the gallery the afternoon of March 7th with both Berman and the author, Tim Beiser, present for conversation and signing copies of the new book between 2 and 5pm.

Many friends of the gallery are already quite familiar with Berman's first children's book, 'Pigmalion', and we are very excited about adding a new book to our children's bookshelf at the gallery!

Sunday 15 February 2009

Book Review

Said Bradley McGogg on one hot summer day, I'm needing a feeding. I'm wasting away!Kirkus Reviews
February 15, 2009

Beiser, Tim
The Very Fine Frog
Illus. by Rachel Berman
Tundra (24 pp.)

Picky eating has rarely been so lauded as it is in this tale of a delicate amphibian diet. Bradley McGogg finds that his cupboard is bare. After much thought upon the matter he sets off to see if his neighbors might spare a bite to eat. Yet to his steadily increasing horror he finds that mice, rabbits, bears and cows prefer to munch disgusting fare. Downtrodden, Bradley returns home to a house overrun with insects. His hunger abated, he is left pondering at the end of his day, "Other folks eat some pretty strange things." Set in rhyme, these verses prove to be quite strong, always scanning perfectly without seeming strained. The watercolor-and-gouache paintings seem a throwback to clothed-animal images of days of yore -- though Potter, for instance would never have dressed Jeremy Fisher in red-and-white striped overalls and sandals. Berman's palette tends to darker hues, which serves the tale well when the story is located in McGogg's bog, but readers may wish the sunlit fields were a little bit more sunny. An amusing tale, indeed. (Picture book. 4-8)

Saturday 31 January 2009

Book Review

Brad sat on a stump, and he pondered and pondered. He strained his frog brain, but his mind kind of wandered.Quill & Quire
Canada's magazine of book news and reviews
January 2009 issue

Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog
by Tim Beiser; Rachel Berman, illus.

Browse the kids’ section at your local bookstore and you might conclude that picture books are entirely populated by animals. Human children do occasionally appear, but the bestselling ones tend to feature mice, squirrels, and turtles standing in for kids. There are a couple of good reasons for this. Any child, regardless of age and race, can slot himself into the character of a coyote or a hedgehog. Animals have yet to find a way to object to type-casting, so an animal hero also lets us play around with emblematic characters (e.g., the hard-working beaver and the thuggish rat).

Furthermore, the animal protagonist gives us an escape route from our age of parental anxiety. We’re nervous about portraying preschoolers taking any risks, but animals can roam the world on their own and play unsupervised. Animals can be naughty and get into trouble. Animals can live the life that human kids long for.

Picky eaters, for example, will have their refined tastes affirmed – nay, celebrated – in Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog. Brad wakes up one morning to find his larder bare, so he visits various neighbours to cadge a meal. Miss Mouse, Herr Bear, Herr Hare, and Miss Moo are all generous and willing to share. But Brad doesn’t fancy their offerings and returns home to a delicious meal of bugs. The rhyming verse is so fresh and the illustrations so full of personality and emotion that we quickly forget the slight premise and simply enjoy Brad’s neighbourhood kitchen crawl.

A text in rhymed couplets is the easiest thing to get wrong in a picture book. Many a good story idea has been shipwrecked on the rocky shores of contorted syntax, predictable rhymes, and imperfect rhythms. But Tim Beiser does a bang-up job, using all the tricks of the trade, such as enjambment, sound echoes, and internal rhyme:

Bradley McGogg was
a very fine frog
who happily napped in
a hollowed-out log.
This log in a bog, where our
frog spent his days,
was a pad Brad had had since
his pollywog phase.

With his tiny green fingers he stifled a gasp, in fright at the sight of the cheese in her grasp.Even more original are the illustrations. Rachel Berman locates this moveable feast in a gentle setting, rural and mildly Edwardian. Paying homage to illustrators of the past, she pictures a Miss Mouse who would fit right into Beatrix Potter’s Lake District and a white hare who, sitting down to tea in his frock coat, echoes the March Hare from Alice. Our hero Bradley, dressed in striped overalls, Birkenstock sandals and bow tie, looks like a hippie version of Lester B. Pearson. In her portrayal of facial expression and gesture Berman creates a frog who is diffident, courteous, tactful, and charming – everyone’s first choice as the eligible bachelor houseguest. The illustration of Brad’s dinner table, a toadstool romantically lit by candelabra, plays coyly against the content of the meal – “flies, squirmy worms, crunchy roaches, and fleas.” The slight contrast between words and pictures creates a delicious tension and a welcoming world for all diners and sojourners.

Reviewed by Sarah Ellis (from the January 2009 issue)

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Book Review

The Manitoba Library Association
Vol XV Number 7
November 21, 2008

Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog.
Tim Beiser. Illustrated by Rachel Berman.Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2009.24 pp., hardcover, $19.99.ISBN 978-0-88776-864-4.

Review by Myra Junyk.
**** /4

Bradley McGogg, the bog frog, has a dilemma. He has run out of food. What will he do? He decides to ask his neighbours to share what they eat. He visits various inhabitants of the bog — Miss Mouse, Herr Bear, Herr Hare, and Miss Moo the cow. Even though all of his neighbours offer to share their food, Bradley discovers that he doesn't like any of it! So Bradley sadly returns to his log where he is thrilled to find that it has become infested with bugs — just his kind of food!

At a spot near their grotto, the bear and the bunny presented Brad carrots all covered in honey.This "very fine frog" has made some important discoveries. His neighbours are very welcoming and do not hesitate to help him with his dilemma. However, he also discovers that they eat some "pretty strange things." His isolation in the log has ended, and he has become part of a larger community. Even though he doesn't share their food, Bradley has learned some valuable lessons about community, friendship, sharing, individual differences, politeness and diversity.

Tim Beiser's story begins by describing Bradley's home environment but then moves on into the wider world of the bog where the "fine frog" goes to meet his neighbours and share their food. The story is told in a lyrical style which will definitely appeal to young children. The rhythm, rhyme, and vivid descriptions make the story come to life. Although this is Tim Beiser's first book for children, he is an experienced playwright, science fiction short story writer and journalist. After studying at Ryerson University, he worked for publications such as National Post Business, Toronto Life, Elm Street, Reader's Digest and Saturday Night. His book is dedicated to his niece Katie McGuire who, when she was in first grade, asked him to write her a story about a frog!

Bradley McGogg, the Very Fine Frog would be particularly useful for teachers as a read aloud. Students could also participate in a shared reading experience or could dramatize the story by taking on the roles of various characters in the story. The story could provide the basis for very lively discussion with parents, caregivers or teachers about topics such as: food, friendship, sharing, courtesy, homes, bogs, individual differences, community, animals, and eating habits!

And finally, Rachel Berman, the British Columbia illustrator, uses magical images to illuminate the text and to engage readers in the story in wonderful ways! The very first illustration shows readers a great deal about Bradley McGogg and his home. The painting portrays Bradley's home as a dark and isolated environment. The colours are predominantly dark brown with strange mysterious shapes. However, Bradley's personality is in sharp contrast to his environment. He is a lively fellow with striped red overalls and a polka dot tie! In later paintings, readers find out that Bradley is a reader because he is surrounded by cookbooks with titles such as Green Cuisine, A La Mode for a Toad and Hop and Wok. As Bradley travels to his various neighbours, children will appreciate the details of the various locations — the mouse hole, the bee hives, and the cow pasture. The paintings provide readers with a feast for the eyes and the imagination!

Highly Recommended.

Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.

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