________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004



Sean Cassidy.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55041-824-6.

Subject Headings:
Frogs-Juvenile fiction.
Hylidae-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***1/2 /4

Reviewed from f&g's.


When the children stopped their noise, Gummytoes climbed onto a branch. He slowly changed his color to match the rough bark. The children gaped. They dropped in an old sock and slopped in a big, dripping spoon of raspberry jam to see if he would turn red.

Frightened, Gummytoes climbed the wall of his glass box. The children squealed with delight. They rapped and thumped on the glass to see if he would fall off.

His new home had no soft breeze to caress his skin. The bright light bulb did not warm him like the deep orange sun. No tangy insects flew by. Old socks and jammy spoons were not fragrant like the dew on the grass. The noise that filled his ears was not the music of an bird.

Gummytoes hid among the rocks and twigs.

Award-winning illustrator Sean Cassidy presents the lively, colorful tale of a tree frog whose wish to be admired lands him in a jam. While Gummytoes manages to impress, amaze, astonish and dazzle two children with his froggy skills, his subsequent capture isn't the reward he had in mind. Deposited inside a terrarium, Gummytoes is startled and frightened, and he resorts to hiding from the children's stares. He engineers his own escape by sending the kids into gales of laughter, thereby distracting them while he hops away. A double message emerges from this story. A young reader will realize it's not always best to brag or be the centre of attention. As well, the determination of Gummytoes to return to his natural existence will reinforce the fact that wild creatures do not make happy pets.

     Cassidy relates his energetic story with an abundance of specific sensory detail for vivid word-pictures:

Gummytoes waddled out of his old red pipe and sat in the soft breeze. He breathed in the scent of damp grass, and a deep orange sun warmed his skin...a dragonfly buzzed past.

internal art     Strong, active verbs and appealing language patterns enhance the visual effects: waddled, buzzed, trilled, scrambled, fluttered, snatched, scooped, rapped and thumped, dropped and slopped. The gaily colored illustrations are filled with motion (many spilling right across double spreads) and emotion. The various perspectives Cassidy has chosen contribute to growing reader empathy for Gummytoes. We delight to see him swoop from a high branch across two pages in his attempt to gain the attention of the children on the ground below. But there's nothing sadder than the huge close-up of a bug-eyed Gummytoes held fast in the grip of the child, or the sight of him splayed on the glass of the cage while a child's huge face peers through. We're brought down to ground level when Gummytoes gleefully escapes behind the back of the boy. This frog species' ability to match his color to his surroundings or activity gives the illustrator a chance to show Gummytoes' various moods: mostly he's green, but he turns brown inside the terrarium. The final illustration depicts a free and well-camouflaged Gummytoes mimicking the leaves on a branch. A page of tree frog facts follows the story text.

     The large sized, bright illustrations and lively text will make this a popular read-aloud for young listeners.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson, a former teacher-librarian and a published writer of children's fiction and nonfiction, lives in BC.

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

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