________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 8. . . .October 23, 2009



Ruowen Wang. Illustrated by Hechen Yu.
Toronto, ON: Kevin & Robin Books, 2008.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-897458-10-5 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-897458-07-5 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Frogs-Jevenile fiction.
Magic-Jevenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 2-6.

Review by Chris Laurie.

***1/2 /4



Evergreen Island is a peaceful kingdom where animals of all sizes and shapes live together happily. Young Froggy sits on a rock by the pond, observing and admiring each passing creature’s style.

Skunk is on the way back from her hairdresser.

“Hi, Froggy. What a nice day!”

“I guess so,” says Froggy absentmindedly, busy admiring how elegant Skunk looks. I like your new hairdo, Skunk. By the way, I heard that spicy new perfume you’ve been wearing lately is getting everyone’s attention.”

“Oh, really?” Skunk blinks happily and advances closer to give Froggy a full whiff of her scent.

Froggy wishes he could attract attention, just like Skunk. But maybe only creatures in striped black-and-white fur can do that.

“If only I had Skunk’s black-and-white fur coat!” thinks Froggy.

The world Wang has created in her picture book, Froggy, is sure to charm readers of all ages. Evergreen Island’s characters are without exception both colourful and interesting. Readers are introduced to Froggy as he is sitting on a rock by the pond “……observing and admiring each passing creature’s style.” Froggy is unsatisfied with himself and wishes “……to be a better creature in every way” and to be more like, for example, Lion, who has a loud, clear voice, or Ox, who possess great strength. Though Froggy’s mother reassures him that he is both kind and smart, Froggy replies that he isn’t as smart as Magician Lee.

internal art      When Froggy tells Magician Lee what he admires most about all of the other animals in Evergreen Island, the Magician, with a wink, promises to change him into exactly what he asks for. Readers will enjoy Froggy’s journey to finding happiness in his own skin.

     Wang has created an appealing world in Evergreen Island. Each of the many characters in this bright picture book is both appealing and interesting, and Froggy is an identifiable young hero with the innocence and longings that young readers will readily identify.

     Award-winning Yu’s delightful watercolour illustrations fill the single-page spreads. His delightful anthropomorphized characters are reminiscent of Michael Hague’s classic artwork in The Wind in the Willows, with further elements brought from Yu’s traditional Chinese artistry. Much white space and large, clear text make this an enjoyable, easy-to-read romp. And yet, despite the strength of Froggy’s illustrations, it is Wang’s quirky and intriguing characters that linger long after reading this book.

     Wang is the author of several self-published children’s books. A former teacher, her website states that her passion is to create children’s stories that contain social and cultural issues with humorous touches that make reading fun. This is accomplished when Froggy learns to embrace the qualities that make him special without the lesson being didactic.

    Let’s hope Evergreen Island’s other characters make appearances in future stories, I’m sure they have wonderful tales of their own to tell.

Highly Recommended.

Chris Laurie is a Youth Services Librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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