________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 7 . . . . November 26, 2004


Leon’s Song.

Stephanie Simpson McLellan. Illustrated by Dianna Bonder.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55041-813-0.

Subject Headings:
Frogs-Juvenile fiction.
Friends-Juvenile fiction.
Bravery-Juvenile fiction.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Helen Norrie.

**** /4

Reviewed from f&g’s.


Out of nowhere, Leon found his voice. Though cracked and dry and uneven, his song was loud and passionate, filled with commanding urgency. It was the biggest sound the pond had ever heard.

With similarities to “The Ugly Duckling," Leon's Song is the story of an old frog who is not handsome, or a swift swimmer, not an exceptional jumper or a beautiful singer, yet feels he "has been born for a purpose."

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     When a huge, predatory fish invades his pond, Leon finds his voice, and his purpose. He gives the alarm in an echoing song and then chases the intruder into an underwater cavern. Vibrations from his song dislodge overhanging rocks which seal the cavern for all time. All the frogs celebrate Leon's courage and talent, and his song and exploits are passed down to future generations.

     The language is one of the things that makes this picture book special. Stephanie Simpson McLellan, who lives in Newmarket, ON, has a gift for finding just the right word. The little fishes jump with "joyful exuberance." The tiny tadpoles "flipped crazily along the surface like a million joyous raindrops." When the invader approaches, "a dark shadow advanced beneath the surface, deliberate and undetected."

     McLellan's previous book, The Chicken Cat, won both the Ruth Schwartz Award and the Mr. Christie Book Award. She is a children's book reviewer, business writer and owner of a mail-order children's book business.

     The other special feature of this book is found in the illustrations. BC artist Dianna Bonder, the author/illustrator of Accidental Alphabet, has provided large, colourful, and often humorous watercolour paintings. They wrap around the text and definitely add to the appeal of the book.

     This picture book would be an excellent read-aloud story for Nursery to grade 3. There are even several repetitive phrases such as "And he was all right with that" in the tradition of oral tales. It could also be enjoyed by early readers up to grade three.

Highly Recommended.

Helen Norrie, of Winnipeg, MB, is a former teacher-librarian who has taught grades 1-12.

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

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