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

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