Here’s a quick post, since work awaits me, one more title from 2012 to look at before we get knee-deep into 2013.
Last September TOON Books released David Nytra’s The Secret of the Stone Frog, and if you missed it, I highly recommend finding a copy. As you know (or if you don’t, you can read this 2011 column I wrote), TOON Books brings us early-reader comics, so what we have here is technically an early reader. This could also be classified a graphic novel, as Nytra lays out the action in panels.
This is the story of Leah and Alan, who inexplicably wake up in the forest beneath a giant tree. Not knowing which way is home, a rhyming frog, made of stone, suddenly appears to assist. “Stay on the path!” he tells the siblings. On their journey, they encounter giant bees, who steal words and are the pets of a strange woman (clearly a run-away from a lost Lewis Carroll tale), living in a giant house in the middle of nowhere. After their escape, they stumble into an orchard with a trio of snappily-dressed lions (”Why, James, it appears that a few children have SPROUTED in our garden!”), who introduce them to giant rabbits. The children hop onto the rabbits for an exhilarating ride to a tunnel, where things get even stranger. Fear not; they make it back home, but I can’t ruin the entire read for you.
As you can tell from the artwork featured here today, these are finely-detailed drawings from Nytra, what Publishers Weekly in a starred review called a “cavalcade of dreamscapes.” As the Kirkus review noted, fans of John Tenniel’s art, as well as his “modern descendants,” such as Maurice Sendak, may really want to check this one out. The Booklist review, also starred, noted: “[Winsor] McKay’s spirit, along with his dream-inspired imagery, lives on through Nytra, whose remarkable debut taps into the same unearthly environment with a similarly enchanting effect.”
This is definitely art to pore over, and evidently it’s the debut children’s book from Nytra, who lives in Canada. Holy moly, I hope we see more from him soon. (”[H]e hopes he has put enough beasties in here to satisfy even the most demanding reader,” his bio says of the book. Beasties, indeed. Beasties galore.)
Here are illustrations from the book. You can click on either image to see the spread in its entirety.
THE SECRET OF THE STONE FROG. Copyright © 2012 by David Nytra. Published by TOON Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, Someville, MA. Spreads reproduced by permission of TOON Books.