CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 9 . . . . November 2, 2012
Ever wondered if Alice would have made it out of Wonderland if she had her little brother? David Nytra's graphic novel, The Secret of the Stone Frog, gives the reader one possible version when Leah and her little brother Alan wake up under an enormous tree in the middle of a strange forest and realize they're not dreaming and have to find their way home. The only clue they have is given to them by a stone frog: 'stay on the path', simple instructions that prove very hard to follow. When Alan's belly starts to rumble, he convinces Leah to go looking for food off the path. Leah doesn't think this is a very good idea, but a cranky younger brother won't help them find their way home. As always, the youngest gets his way!
Off the path, Leah and Alan find giant bees rather than food. Lucky for them, the bees' owner rescues them and invites them for cookies and milk. Everything is going well until a bee literally starts to eat Alan's words. Leah tries to protect her brother and hits the bee. After the words are forced back into Alan's mouth, Alan voice is restored. Their host, however, is not pleased with Leah's actions and sends her enormous bees after the children. They manage to escape the swarm and find oversized, delicious cherries. In their excitement, they forget how important it is to ask permission before they help themselves to the cherries and find themselves being questioned by three lions in very posh outfits.
After explaining their situation and showing that they do have manners, Leah and Alan are sent off on oversized rabbits and make their way into a subway where they're surrounded by monstrous fish who are as well-dressed as their new lion friends. The pair are able to stay unnoticed until the angry bee-owner enters the same car. Leah and Alan quickly escape and find themselves in a city that has literally come alive with talking sidewalks made of very real alligators and screaming buildings telling everyone what direction the two children have gone. With directions from another stone frog, the two children suddenly tumble out of their closet and into their bedroom. Alan is, of course, not tired at all after their adventure, but big sister Leah coaxes him into his bed, and both fall into a quiet, and safe, sleep. The stone frog in the back yard, however, hints that another adventure could be just around the corner.
The Secret of the Stone Frog is a fast-paced adventure that will keep readers on the edge of their seats with an ending that leaves the readers and characters feeling safe. The book ends with Alan asking Leah, with deep concern, if it's true their parents think she is too old to share a room with her little brother. When Leah confirms their parents want her to have her own room, he asks what she plans to do. She is asleep before she can answer. Sometimes the littlest things are the scariest. This last scene is very easy to relate to and makes the characters very real.
My only concern is that some readers may ignore the book because of the black and white illustrations. While they are beautifully detailed, they may not be enough to convince every reader to pick the book up. However, after reading just two or three pages of The Secret of the Stone Frog, readers will be hooked and won't be able to put this book down!
Crystal Sutherland is a MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate living in Halifax, NS. She is solo-librarian for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, an arms-length government agency created to educate the public and advise the provincial government on issues of interest to, and affecting, all women.
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