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Sunday, December 15, 2013

An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night by Joanne McGonagle

Hello again!
Welcome back to Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers…the place to be when your day calls for a break and your FINAL ANSWER is READING.

Today’s featured title comes to us from the Children’s Storybook sub-cat and stars a young lead you might not be expecting.  Well, okay…if you read the title of this post, you’re PROBABLY expecting it but otherwise it would be a complete and utter surprise.  In my mind, it’s a perfect option for little boy readers, you know the ones that are reluctant to sit through a story unless it has something dashing, daring, or muddy involved…but it also works for girls because our warty little friend is still rather adorable.  Anyway, rather than put a decision in your mind, I’ll let you make it up for yourself…after all, to each reader their own.  Ready to check out today’s star?  Get ready to hop down the froggy, I mean toad-y trail, today’s book of choice is….

Joanne McGonagle
Illustrated by
Rachael Mahaffey

From the back cover…
…the story of a young toad named Andrew, pondering whether his life would be more interesting had he been hatched a frog.

Andrew embarks on his first solo hop to ask his grandpa some questions about what it means to be an amphibian.  The story is blended with factual information that compares and contrasts the similarities and differences among toads and frogs.

A young reader’s curiosity will be piqued as they consider the unique attributes of the individual creatures that make up a species, perhaps sparking the light of conservation in their hearts and minds.

Well said indeed and spot on.

This is a great example of the newish genre many refer to as Edutainment.  Here we have a lengthier storybook detailing the journey of young Andrew as he seeks to find the silver lining of being who he is.  You know the “grass is always greener on the other side” bit, right?  Well in this case, the frog’s life seems greener than an ordinary toad’s, though don’t misunderstand me, he’s an American toad as the Common toad is found throughout Europe, making him green with envy... as opposed to his usual brown.  Little did he know that his trip to Grandpa’s house for reassurance would end up becoming an adventure resulting in an understanding that can only come from experiencing things first hand. 

You see, along the way, Andrew meets many woodland friends and several other “not-so-friends” (as in the nice-to-meet-you-now-let-me-eat-you kind).  It’s in these chance meetings that everything Andrew knows about his species is put to good use…and he picks up a few new tips.  From knowing the difference between American and Common toads to learning that their offensive taste puts off many creatures from tangling with them, he was not only on his way to Grandpa’s house but to an appreciation of who/what he is.  Self-acceptance, from a toad’s perspective…an unexpected lesson  but one well taught.

Aside from the story shared and facts revealed, we have the colorful illustrations bringing things to life.  Obviously it makes the story more accessible to little ones just starting out (who wouldn’t want to follow a toad to their Grandpa’s house?), but it also allows readers as they grow to visualize the points of difference explained along out along the way. We see the shiny green skin of the frogs versus the bumpy brown skin of the toads.  Their jewel-tone eyes are easily seen on the page for their beauty as well as their strategic placement on the top’s of their heads (they get the bird’s eye view in the amphibian world).  Let us also not discount the presentation of the actual text which is illustrated to a degree as well.  Each page and passage is presented on a parchment type scroll with rolling font that makes you wonder if the toad before you just finished writing it on the page before you turned it…a simple yet lovely touch that just makes the experience more complete.

So, if you’re looking to learn a bit more about our amphibious friends, searching for a book to satisfy the curiosity of the little ones on your life, or merely up for a good illustrated read with not only a take away message but information too, this is definitely the book for you!  Review copy received courtesy of author Joanne McGonagle.  (THANKS!)  For more information on her conservation interests and work, be sure to visit her online or like her Facebook page.  To catch up with the illustrator behind the lovely spreads that grace these pages, pay a visit to her official site.

Until next time…happy learning…and happy reading!


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