The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra, 80 pp, RL 2
The Secret of the Stone Frog marks a new direction for the peerless TOON Books, publishers of easy to read comics for emerging readers. While the TOON comic books that have come before are 32 pages long, The Secret of the Stone Frog is 80 pages long, making it graphic novel length. For their first graphic novel (220 Lexile) they have gone all out. This book is absolutely beautiful from cover to cover. In fact, the cover is embossed, making the illustration look like a photograph in an album, and the endpapers have special illustrations as well. The fantastical illustrations clearly are a nod to the classic comic strip Little Nemo, the boy who traveled in his dreams every night, and intricate, imaginative and transportive.
Nytra's story is seemingly simple and dreamily odd. When siblings Leah and Alan awake to find their beds wedged between the roots of a giant tree, they are intrigued and a bit worried. However, a talking stone frog offers them rhyming advice on how to find their way home. The two do their best to follow the frog's instructions, but sometimes they stray off the path (always stay on the path!)
While the big-headed lady and her swarm of word-stealing bees may seem menacing, Leah proves brave and swats them away and the two continue on through this strange world. Elegant lions dressed like Eighteenth Century noblemen, rabbits the size of small elephants, a subway ridden by well dressed amphibians and an anthropomorphized police station that threatens to swallow them whole are among the other oddities that the siblings encounter on their way home.
The Secret of the Stone Frog feels like a natural progression for TOON Books, featuring high production values, quality writing and superb art work. There is absolutely more room on the shelves for children's graphic novels of this quality, especially those that are written expressly for emerging readers. The Secret of the Stone Frog is definitely the kind of book that makes a beautiful, special gift book that children will carry with them into adulthood.
Source: Review Copy