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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