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I’m cheating today.
Normally, on the first Sunday of each month, I feature a student illustrator or someone debuting a picture book. Today’s illustrations are from the acclaimed illustrator Gennady Spirin, who is hardly new to children’s lit. In fact, he’s received five gold medals from the Society of Illustrators; he has been awarded First Prize for Illustration at the Barcelona International Children’s Book Fair, as well as the Premio Grafico at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair; he received the Golden Apple of the Bratislava International Biennale of children’s book illustration; and on four different occasions his work has been placed on the New York Times Best Illustrated Books list.
But last Sunday, I featured a debut artist, the talented Eliza Wheeler. And today I can’t help but show Spirin’s illustrations from Brenda Z. Guiberson’s Frog Song (Henry Holt, February 2013). Know why? The book is, as Pamela Paul wrote at the New York Times, “nothing less than a springtime reverie.” And I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but Spring has finally sprung here—warm temps and all—and I feel like celebrating today.
she carries each of them to a separate pool of water high in the trees.”
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In this book, Guiberson and Spirin profile eleven different frogs from all over the world, but it is much more than a book about frogs. It’s a celebration of life and renewal. And that’s because each spread, detailing information about the frog’s calls and places of habitat, also explains how each frog (male or female) takes care of its precious eggs. It’s fascinating — from the Great Plains narrow-mouthed toad, who lives with a tarantula in a spider hole to help keep the burrow free of insects, to the Surinam toad of Ecuador, who carries 100 eggs in the skin on her back. (“After four months, small froglets break through her skin and swim away.” Right? Right!) Let us not forget the male Darwin’s frog of Chile, who guards tadpoles in his vocal sacks to keep them moist. “Then he gives a big yawn, and little froglets pop out.”
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“A frog song is a celebration of clean water, plants, and insects to eat,” the book closes, getting right to the heart of the book. There’s also a “Frogs of the World” spread, which gives even more facts about these creatures, and it all closes with a bibliography, further web links for frog facts, and a “Frogs in Trouble” note about conservation and wildlife. (This led to a lengthy conversation with my own elementary-aged daughters about sustainable living and our endangered planet. I could see the wheels turning in their brains. I love books that engender such discussions.)
Spirin’s finely-rendered illustrations are exquisite. “Bursting with detail,” Pamela Paul wrote in the aforementioned NYT link, “especially in the opulent end pages, Spirin’s tableaus of blooming lily pads, laden with flowers and frogs, resemble 17-century Dutch still lifes in their awed contemplation of the natural world. Textures snap to life….” These are splendid, realistically-rendered tempera, watercolor, and pencil illustrations, and they reward with intricate details those willing to spend time with them.
A beautiful piece of nonfiction.
FROG SONG. Copyright © 2013 by Brenda Z. Guiberson. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Gennady Spirin. Published by Henry Holt, New York. Spreads reproduced with permission of the publisher.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
1) In celebration of this news, I’m re-watching all three seasons of Arrested Development. Now, understand: I don’t re-watch television series or movies, generally speaking. Life is too short, and there are too many books I want to read and movies I want to see. But it’s only one of the funniest shows in the history of television, and I wanna be prepped for the new shows.
Plus, I really missed Buster.
2) Warm weather! Spring!
3) I did story time with toddlers yesterday, which was fun. But part two of the kick was being reminded how glad I am that I’m no longer chasing toddlers around. Those parents. They NEVER get to sit.
And it looks like we found it just in time for the sequel.
6) Tift Merritt.
7) Look at this. I better go build a syllabus.
What are YOUR kicks this week?