Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra

The Secret of the Stone Frog is a gorgeous, graphic novel children's fairy tale.

Two children go to sleep in their rooms and wake to find that they have been transported to a mysterious forest. To get home again, they have to follow the directions of a stone frog (or a series of stone frogs?) that they find

The intended readers are children. The dialog is kept to a minimum and the words are shorter, easier for beginning readers. Also, while there are some situations that are scary for the brother and sister protagonists, there is nothing here that is intended to provoke nightmare or provide more than a very slight shiver to the beginning reader.

Nytra's portrayal of the sibling relationship is a delight. The two children clearly love one another and take turns protecting, and occasionally exasperating one another. Leah is clearly the protective older sister with Alan being the somewhat irresponsible "baby," but he'll help when she needs it.

The book is full of the unexpected, the bizarre, and the beautiful. There are suited lantern-fish men waiting for a train, enormous, word-eating bees, friendly giant rabbits the children can ride, and at the end, a city comes gloriously, terribly to life as the children leave the land.

I have to confess to twoo minor disappointments. One is that, right at the end, the book breaks its one of its own rules: The frog tells them early on that the way home is "always behind me." The actual exit turns out to be to the frog's left. Fairy tales tend to be very, very literal and to keep their rules rigidly, so I'd have been happier of Nytra had remembered his own instructions. Also, I admit to being slightly disappointed in the "It was all a dream (maybe)" ending. I prefer trips to other worlds to have happened! The art work there, though, is beautiful as the shapes in the garden echo the shapes and places the children visited during the night.

My complaints--and they are tiny complaints--aside, this is a gorgeous book suitable for reading with kids, giving to kids, or just enjoying on ones own for the lavish and lovely black and white artwork.

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