Fans of Mo Willems’ best-selling, laugh-out-loud Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books may be surprised by the quiet tone of his new picture book, City Dog, Country Frog, in which a dog and a frog befriend one another. Their relationship is sweet and heartfelt, much like that of Arnold Lobel’s beloved Frog and Toad series, without any of Frog and Toad’s misunderstandings.
The duo meets in spring, on City Dog’s “first day in the country.” They romp and explore exuberantly, basking in each other’s company. When summer arrives, City Dog teaches Frog some of his favorite games, which include “sniffing and fetching and barking.” By fall, however, Frog is too tired to play, and come winter, he is gone, leaving City Dog lonely and bereft over the loss of his friend. The next spring, City Dog finds a new companion (Country Chipmunk), but he never forgets dear Frog.
In a beautifully understated way, City Dog, Country Frog tackles the essential issues of friendship, change, loss and death. It’s also the sort of book that can be absorbed at many levels. Some children will simply enjoy the surface-level story, while others might be ready for more profound discussions suggested by the tale.
While Willems’ text is appropriately spare, Jon J Muth’s watercolor illustrations are gorgeous, showing the changing soft palette of each successive season—from the brilliant greens of spring and summer to the soft purple, blue and yellow tones of a beautiful winter day. Muth’s renditions of Dog and Frog are cute but never trite, and he paints these animals with a wide range of heartfelt expressions.
Writing and illustrating such a lovely, simple, yet meaningful book is no easy feat, and Muth and Willems have once again proven themselves masters.Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.
Muth (Zen Shorts) sets a limpid rural scene for Willems's (Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed) two unlikely friends in this tranquil tale of change. One spring day, redolent with fresh yellow-greens and pale blues, City Dog tastes life "without a leash!" Exploring a reedy pond, he meets Country Frog, who teaches him "jumping and splashing and croaking." When summer arrives, City Dog demonstrates "sniffing and fetching and barking." Fall brings orange-gold foliage and a brown cast to Country Frog's emerald skin. In wintertime, City Dog trots through the snow to find Country Frog's favorite rock unoccupied. A closing chapter, "spring again," shows City Dog encountering another animal and repeating the same greeting Country Frog met him with the year before. Willems's concise sentences, paired with joking illustrations in his other works, lose their hilarity--but gain significant emotional weight--when matched with Muth's watercolors. Pink blossoms and red maple leaves allude to Japanese art; Muth pictures Country Frog as a wise tutor who tosses a stick for his apprentice and, in a rain shower, protectively holds a leaf over the dog. The understated episodes acknowledge the transitory nature of the seasons and of life itself. Ages 3-6. (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
PreS-Gr 2--Spare, poignant, and ultimately upbeat, this tale depicts the natural cycle of friendship from an enthusiastic first encounter to contented companionship to the heartbreak of loss and eventual emotional renewal. Presented with a comfortingly consistent narrative structure, the events are set against the backdrop of the changing seasons, reassuring readers that winter will turn again to spring, sadness to joy. In "spring," City Dog runs free in the countryside for the first time ever and discovers an unfamiliar creature perched on a rock. Asked, "What are you doing?" Country Frog smiles and replies, "Waiting for a friend…but you'll do." The two play Country Frog games ("jumping and splashing and croaking") and when reunited in "summer," they enjoy City Dog pastimes ("sniffing and fetching and barking"). In "fall," Country Frog is tired, so the friends spend their time remembering. When City Dog arrives again in "winter," Country Frog is nowhere to be found (a wordless spread shows the pooch sitting on the rock, looking small and forlorn against a stark winterscape). In "spring again," a sad-looking City Dog befriends another critter with a familiar line, and then beams "a froggy smile" (shown in close-up, this warmly illustrated grin guarantees that Country Frog will not be forgotten). Making expert use of color and texture, Muth's expressive paintings clearly convey the tale's emotional nuances. This understated picture book allows plenty of room for young readers to interpret the animals' feelings for themselves and perhaps discuss their own emotions.--Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal[Page 94]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.