Saturday, February 9, 2013

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Weekly Trip to the Library
Review By Eve Morse

Frog and Toad Are Friends is one of those books that when read for the first time as an adult makes you marvel at the subtleties and humor it contains. It definitely makes you wonder if the subtleties passed us by as children or if we understood them as only children can. Children, and adults, cannot help but be charmed by its humor and gentle story telling. This book is full of learning experiences that children can take with them as they grow up.

Frog and Toad Are Friends is one of four books in the Frog and Toad series. Frog and Toad Are Friends is a collection of five tales about the two friends going about their daily lives encountering small trials and how they deal with them. The major theme is one of enduring friendship and helping others. The Scholastic website recommends it for 8- to 10-year-olds, however it shouldn’t be omitted from the collection parents and caregivers read to younger children and pre-readers. It is never too soon to read stories to children, especially if they can contribute to the many building blocks that make up their future. They will always learn something from a book, no matter how young they are.

Old fashioned humor that never goes out of date

There are so many fantastic books written nowadays but the humor tends to be more obvious and sometimes screaming out of the page at children. Arnold Lobel was a master at quiet, knowing humor. Books with humor help children to learn in a positive way and humor is crucial to creating happy and secure lives and relationships.

In one of the tales in this book called The Story Toad tells Frog who is lying prone in bed that he looks a bit green and Frog says, “But I always look green...I am a frog.” Toad then decides he is going to tell Frog a story in the hope that his condition will improve but he can’t think of a story. So he proceeds to stand on his head, pour a glass of water over his head many times, bang his head against a wall and so on waiting for inspiration, but still no story will come and in the end he starts to feel unsurprisingly poorly and swaps places with Frog who is starting to feel better. Frog then tells Toad a story based on Toad’s unusual attempts at inspiration and then asks him what he thought of the story, but there is no answer as Toad has fallen asleep.

Toad’s attempts to tell the story may have been fruitless but he provided some inspiration and material for his friend. Children will be equally inspired by these tales of perseverance and patience. Reading to children is crucial as excellent literacy skills are an early indicator of future success in their lives and careers.

Frog and Toad can equip children with skills for life

There are many tales of human weakness in these simple stories and children can learn from these and take away ideas and skills for dealing with problems they encounter in life. Julia Donaldson, one of the most successful children’s authors of recent times, has spoken of her envy of the way Arnold Lobel wrote and she cites him as a hero.

Donaldson sees the stories as modern fables about human weaknesses such as greed, self-consciousness and laziness. She sees Toad as the child in the stories and this is the crucial point about these stories, children will recognize themselves and learn from their own mistakes as well as Toad’s, an essential part of maturing and growing up.

In A Lost Button Toad gets very cross and angry that he cannot find his button and despite Frog doing his best to help him, ends up having a tantrum episode screaming, “The Whole World is covered with buttons, and not one of them is mine!” He runs home and slams the door and finds the button at home all along and then feels rather contrite and sorry for Frog. He sews all of the buttons he collected all over his jacket and presents it as a beautiful present to Frog who jumps for joy. This is a good example of how children can take real life lessons from books and put them into practice in their own lives serving them well in the future.

It is crucial that we build on the early foundations of children’s lives by investing in their future, through early reading experiences and longer term financial security through savings. Reading is one of the best ways we can do this, and this book sets a great example as Frog and Toad tell each other stories and write each other letters to read.

However, we also need to ensure that these early years lead to fruitful lives throughout school and college by ensuring children not only learn about money and how to use it wisely, but have access to it when they need it most. The State Treasurer’s Office in Vermont offers a fantastic way of teaching children financial literacy. From kindergarten right through to the 6th grade children learn about personal finance through high quality children’s books in a program calledReading is an Investment.” The books explore financial subjects that with input from the teachers help the children to make a connection between the stories and their individual lives.

This seems a far cry from the idyllic world of Frog and Toad but it is exactly the same concept that Arnold Lobel employed all those years ago helping children relate problems to their own lives. Reading to children every day is such a simple act so we must ensure that it pays dividends in their future education and career by implementing practical measures like saving for their future. By learning from Frog and Toad, who teach each other about friendship and coping with challenges, and through parental financial foresight, children will come away with skills and resources for life and access to a great education funded by long term savings.

Unsentimental tales for children to appreciate

Frog and Toad Are Friends is a perfect book for late afternoon or bedtime reading. It may contain deep themes of friendship and human failings but they are told in a very unsentimental and simple way. This kind of book is always a pleasure to read, and soothing for the child as well as the reader, especially at the end of a busy day for parent or carer. Children will be learning how to cope with seemingly trivial trials in life from Frog and Toad but this is how children learn about how to cope with the bigger challenges in life that you can only prepare them for to a certain extent. You can however rest assured that the children will probably go to sleep calm and thoughtful, dreaming about Frog and Toad and long lasting friendships before grown-up life begins.

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