7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #325: Featuring Gennady Spirin

h1 April 7th, 2013 by jules

In Canada, the wood frog bursts out with a song in a mossy bog. BRACKBRACK! The female attaches a mass of eggs to underwater plants. Many eggs and tadpoles will be eaten by fish and birds, but some will become frogs that can freeze in winter and thaw in spring.”
(Click to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)

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.

In the rain forest of Costa Rica, the strawberry poison dart frog trills a tiny tune in a pile of wet leaves. PSSST-PSSST. The female hops over to lay five eggs. SQUISHY-SQUIRM! When the tadpoles hatch,
she carries each of them to a separate pool of water high in the trees.”

(Click to enlarge spread)

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.”

In Spain, the song of the male midwife toad clangs like a bell. TINKTINKTINKTINK! He carries a string of sticky eggs and crouches under a wet log to keep them moist. SQUIZZLE-SQUIZ. When he feels the tadpoles squirming, he hops, hops, hops to find a pool where they can hatch.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

“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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

Hey, brother.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.

4) A great, new read-aloud with my girls. None of us can get enough of Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, which I first read about at this great Horn Book link.

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?

26 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #325: Featuring Gennady Spirin”

  1. Frog Song looks sublime. Thanks for the post, Jules.

    Here’s a bifurcated ode to one of my creative heroes, and his classic pairing of opposites:

    Two Triolets for Chuck Jones
    By Steven Withrow

    Wile E. Coyote

    And it’s fast food that does him in.
    His heart, an Acme-made grenade,
    Cracks before he pulls the pin,
    And it’s fast food that does him in.
    His shadow grizzles sickly thin
    As gulch-grass in arroyo shade.
    And it’s fast food that does him in.
    His heart—an Acme-made grenade…

    The Road Runner

    Racing bird, cuckoo rocket,
    Burns up blacktop in his sleep.
    Speed so quick, no gun can clock it!
    Racing bird, cuckoo rocket
    (Acme anvils fill his pocket)
    Cronks his parting words—Beep, Beep!
    Racing bird, cuckoo rocket,
    Burns up blacktop in his sleep.

    © 2013 Steven Withrow, all right reserved

  2. Wow! Lovely frogs, hooray for Spring and interesting nonfiction picture books!
    Jules – AD might be just the thing to fill the 30 Rock hole in my life. Congrats on the class, so exciting. My nieces and nephews who were visiting last week were a good reminder that I am glad that I have kids who can buckle themselves into the car without car seats.
    Steven – What a lovely ode to two of my favorite characters.

    1. I decided to post a sketch for everyday of April. I am using the hashtag, #aprilsketch. You can find me on twitter (atlanticmoira) or instagram & tumblr (atlanticmo) if you want to follow me.
    2. My son’s little leauge team started practicing (first day 38F out). Go Red Sox!!
    3. Yesterday I went up to the Harvard Museum to meet up with a bunch of kidlit illustrators to sketch some of the very cool collection. We had lunch afterwards where we exchanged sketchbooks and chatted kidlit.
    4. I am an aunt for the seventeenth time thanks to my SIL in NY.
    5. The Easter candy is consumed.
    6. Got to see my good friend who lives far away but was home in MA to visit her folks.
    7.good report cards

    Happy Spring! We’ve got the state of mind even if we don’t have the weather…yet.

  3. Love the squizzle-squizzle of the frogs and art.
    Jules, how did your talk go last Monday? Class this summer, woohoo! I so agree about re watching movies and tv shows. Haven’t seen AD.
    Steven, the pairing is terrific. Burns up blacktop in his sleep, ha!
    Moira, will check out you sketches and hope you get spring weather soon.
    My kicks:
    1. Grand girls
    2. Spring break
    3. Posting student work on my blog.
    4. Lunch with friends
    5. Wrote a synopsis for my novel.
    6. Writing.
    7. Poetry postcards to send out.

  4. Steven, I love that. I’ll have to go look up the rules for bifurcated odes so that I can appreciate it even more.

    Moira: Hope the weather soon follows your positive state-of-mind. Happy new aunt-hood, and kick #3 sounds very fun. Thanks for the info on your sketch-a-day.

    Jone: The talk went well, and it was also a good chance for me to experience again the software I’ll be using to teach. And you wrote a synopsis for YOUR NOVEL? Whoa. That is exciting and intense, but mostly exciting.

  5. Good morning, Imps!

    Hello, Gennady! Thanks for the beautiful frogs and friends. What lovely details.

    Jules: Who wants to sit still?

    Steven: Very nice!

    Go Moira go!

    Good morning, Jone. Keep writing.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Bulletin board
    2) Read-through
    3) Updates
    4) Audition
    5) Music
    6) Photos
    7) Laughing out loud

  6. Oh, Jules, so glad you highlighted Frog Song today allowing me to look at it with fresh eyes. I did a post last month on my blog.
    I’m happy spring has arrived for you. Still waiting here though; had another bit of snow this morning covering our ground yet again. Your class looks divine.

    Thank you Steven for the poems about Coyote and the Road Runner. No Saturday morning was complete without watching them.

    Absolutely lovely sketches Moira. I’ll be checking them out this month. Thank you.

    I like the idea of poetry postcards Jone. What a wonderful idea.

    My kicks:
    1. I saw my first robin.
    2. When I overslept for garbage pick-up; the man called from farther down the route, came back and backed into the drive so I would not have to take everything to the edge of the road. Knights are everywhere.
    3. Made dinner for Nerdy Book Club friends who were in town.
    4. Xena is going to be in a short video.
    5. Read wonderful picture books
    6. Went book shopping at my favorite indie store
    7. Walks with Xena

  7. Willow:
    Our posts crossed in cyberspace but I love your last kick. Nothing is better than laughter.

  8. A quick good morning Imps! – I’ll come back later and comment on everyone’s kicks but headed out to Boot Camp – but Jules – Tift Merritt? I’d never heard of her and then clicked over and listened to Traveling Alone and man, just perfect. Struck a chord, I just went on vacation alone and had a conversation with a good friend about there being a certain romance in solitude….synchronicity! Wow!

  9. LW: Touché, my friend, touché (on wanting to sit still). … Hope the read-through was for a particularly great show.

    Margie, what a good week. Congrats on the first robin-sighting. I hope you get Spring very soon. I love your second kick. Also, I’ll go find your Frog Song post.

    Rachel: I LOVE THAT SONG (“Traveling Alone”). In fact, what happened, though I’ve always liked Tift’s music, is that her latest CD, a collaboration with a classical pianist, made me want to go get some of her older CDs (Tift’s, that is) that I didn’t already have, and the one that opens with “Traveling Alone” is the one I got. And I instantly loved the song — especially the lyrics. So glad you like it too.

  10. I’m going to have to list 7-Imp itself as my only Kick today, although it wasn’t my only Kick this week: I’m flat out of time to post Kicks THANKS TO TODAY’S ILLUSTRATIONS.

    See, they reminded me of probably the best book I ever got as a gift, from anyone, on any topic (fic or non-). It was a large-format older-kid’s book (probably predated the YA or MG classifications, who knows), called something like Illustrated Guide to Natural History. Hardbound, possibly 300+ pages, published possibly the late 1950s to mid-1960s. As I recall, it covered the whole shebang: astronomy (especially the Solar System), weather/climate, geology (rocks/minerals, volcanoes, etc.), plant life, animal life (insects, fish, amphibians, dinosaurs, mammals). (Even at 300+ pages, it seems like an awful lot to cover, huh?)

    And I just blew all my available Kickstime, possibly for the entire month of April, on a search — in vain! — for any information about it ANYWHERE. Have set up a couple of rare/used-book alerts but am not hopeful. But it was fun remembering it. Gennady Spirin’s frogs reminded me SO much of the pictures of frogs and toads in this book!

    All of which said, I am looking forward to reading everyone else’s Kicks today!

  11. This is a top shelf book for sure. Such gorgeous nonfiction.

    1. Finished a rather long article.
    2. Good feedback on said article–working on rewrites.
    3. Realized that four of my students are now reading with expression…such a jump for them!
    4. Fish chowder for supper
    5. New yarn! New yarn! From Maine.
    6. This movie
    showing Ashley Bryan during the Easter morning installation of his amazing beachglass stained glass pieces.
    7. My cat Spike, who likes to sleep on top of me when I nap.

  12. Frog Song looks gorgeous, Jules! Now I have run out of time to actually enjoy people’s kicks and respond…so will leave myself a note to NOT FORGET when I return home from work.

    I have never watched Arrested Development, Jules. And you’re a teacher for that course?! Wow! Have fun!

    1. Have cleared out lots of space in the spare room (ie new baby’s room) including piles of books. Hard to decide what to let go of but it’s so much emptier now that I feel very accomplished.
    2. Had fun collecting paint swatches – even if it’s hard to decide which ones to go with!
    3. A lovely visit to another town to visit friends and their baby in a new house
    4. We are starting to be inundated by offers of baby things to have or borrow…makes us appreciate how supported we are. Even if people keep asking us stuff we hadn’t thought of yet, like what sort of baby bath we’re planning to use (there is more than one?!)
    5. Our local monthly farmer’s market was on today, and we got to walk there as it wasn’t raining! Lots of yummy shopping ensued. I managed to restrict my impulse vegetable purchase of the day to a set of long skinny eggplants – a veggie I always have trouble cooking but they were so pretty I couldn’t resist
    6. The free-range pork people had a 5 day old piglet with them. It was ridiculously cute.
    7. A delicious pain au chocolat from the French café stall for breakfast

  13. […] found out about this book through an article on Seven Impossible Things, which is accompanied by some beautiful page spreads (click them for gorgeous, large […]

  14. Thanks, all, for the kind words about the poem. Jules: “bifurcated ode” is just my way of saying an ode branching in two directions.

    The triolet is a fascinating French verse form, especially challenging in English because of the refrains:


  15. Now those are some beautiful frogs—mottled skin, glossy eyes, sticky eggs. I’ve always liked frogs. Back in my 20s, when apartment rules allowed aquarium-pets only, I had two African Dwarf Frogs who were my pals for many years. And Spirin seems to have picked some very interesting species to profile; like the one who lives with a tarantula. (!) Thanks for sharing.

    Jules – my sons are huge Arrested Development fans. I get a little squirmy with some of the humiliation humor, but do love how outrageous the characters are. Yea for the grad students who get to take your class. I appreciate the fine education I get on the ever-emerging world of picture books by following 7 Imp. : – )

    Stephen – thumbs up for your refrain “And it’s fast food that does him in.” ha-ha.
    Moira – your baseball-play shorthand gives you away as team Scorekeeper. Have a good season.
    Jone – RE: novel. You go girl!
    LW – glad new photos turned out well. A good headshot is worth a thousand promo words.
    Margie – love your “knight in shining garbage truck” anecdote. Made me smile.
    Rachel – synchronicity happens @7-Imp. Me thinks: Jules has a knack/we all have lot in common.
    JES – Hope your rare/used book alert hits. Do you recall who gave you the book gift?
    Robin – Congrats on finished article and emotive student readers, and Spike naps too.
    emmaco – Good luck on the baby learning curve. Did you know babies use their own (dye-, scent-free) brand of laundry detergent? I didn’t.

    For anyone who has a HS school senior in their household, this is Decision Month (theirs). With list of the colleges they’ve been admitted to, they have until May 1st to decide/deposit. So, my son and I have been touring his list of undergrad film schools.

    A few spring break tour kicks:

    1. Univ. of North Carolina School of the Arts has their own Film Village with soundstages, backlot architecture and studio facilities. Their film department funds all aspects of the students’ productions: props, film stock, lighting/camera equipment. The grad-student composers even write film scores which the musician students perform/record. Wow. You folk in North Carolina have quite the gem in your backyard.

    2. Emerson in Boston… happy students, great facilities and location (right on Boston Common.) But the student living perk that made me gasp was this: you can look up the laundryroom online and SEE how many washer/dryers are free. AND then have your washer/dryer TEXT YOU when your cycle is complete (!). OMG, how many dank, lint-filled, tumbling hours might I have saved!

    3. youthful enthusiasm; the world is their oyster.

    4. The Dean at Emerson gave a speech built around “a beam of light” theme and “the spotlight” of performing arts and Einstein’s creative impulse. (I’ve got to send her Berne/Radunsky’s book.)

    5. irreverent humor

    6. twin-bed lifts (that allow extra storage beneath), cool invention.

    7. my son spreading wings on edge of the proverbial nest; thoughtful and competent.

    Have a great spring week kickers and lurkers and Jules. Thanks for the springy frogs Mr. Spirin.

  16. John, if you figure out the name of the book, let us know. My blog apologizes that you lost these hours today! Sunday hours are extra precious. (I love it when childhood books stick so well, though, you know?)

    Ooh, Robin! Thanks for the video! And I knew you’d knock that article outta the ballpark.

    Emmaco, baby prep! Exciting. Glad you successfully cleared out some space; it’s so hard to do, but—as you said—feels great afterwards.

    Thanks for the link, Steven.

    Denise, good luck with Decision Month. Film schools … just … wow. I’ve always thought that’d be so fascinating to study. … I love kick #4, and she’d definitely appreciate On a Beam of Light. (Do you all have a preference for schools yet? The Univ. of North Carolina School for the Arts sounds great.)

  17. Hi Imps, back after a busy, really busy, time. Loved all the frogs – so, so cool. My Little will like this book a lot!!!!

    I really enjoyed all the kicks – everyone is inspiring. AND I’m so happy I was able to stop by on a day when Steven had posted a poem – great as always!

    My kicks:
    1. beautiful weather (70s) for a farewell for lovely friends moving to Amsterdam.

    2. a chat with my conference planning buddies today – so creative, so out there, so loving. Can’t wait for August in Maine.

    3. foster baby is recovering from a week-long digestive challenge with a formula that hurt her tender little innards. Phew! Less screaming, slightly more sleep, some sanity!

    4. my Little said “YAY!” when I reminded him at dinner that he goes back to kindergarten tomorrow after having been off for 2 weeks. I’m so grateful he is happy at his beautiful little school.

    5. Just finished the latest Flavia de Luce novel – I love that girl!

    6. weeded the herb bed while my Little drew the most wonderful chalk drawings of Thomas (the tank engine) and his friend Hiro.

    7. had time to make it here to read and share.

    Happy week all.

  18. Good luck with your book search, John! That book sounds fantastic.

    You’re an aunt 17 times over, Moira?! Wow! You should be called super aunt!

    Denise, hardly anyone from a city moves for uni here so the whole searching for a college thing is very novel! It sounds very exciting for you & your son! (and that text messaging laundromat thing is a definite plus)

    Glad your foster baby is feeling better, Allison – at least you figured out what the problem was.

    Margie I am assuming robins must migrate where you are, not that you actually just saw your first robin 🙂

  19. Allison: Which conference will it be? Glad the foster baby is doing well. I can see how it’d be hard to find time to come kickin’ or do much of anything else with a wee one on hand. And it’s great that your son likes school that much. My girls just returned after Spring Break, and they were not thrilled about it. (Their school is fine. They’d just rather stay home. Sounds like your son’s school is extra special.)

    Have a great week!

  20. Jules (et al.), my parents gave me the book one Christmas. I can remember reading it in bed for HOURS during that Christmas break.

    To narrow the range, it was most probably published somewhere in 1960-65 (really unlikely that it was any later than that; might’ve been earlier). I’ve thought about it many, many times over the years — no idea what happened to my copy, obviously — and this 7-Imp post finally moved me to (try to) DO something about those thoughts. 🙂

    LW and Denise: when I was a senior in high school, they asked us to list our hobbies for possible inclusion in the yearbook. I used “laughing” as one of mine. When a friend of mine saw that (“Hobbies: laughing”) under my yearbook picture, he burst out laughing (which, of course, induced it in me). One of my favorite H.S. memories — and until now, a memory I don’t think I’ve shared elsewhere. (Not that it’s a big secret or anything; just never had occasion to mention it before.)

  21. JES — love that memory. lol

  22. Laughing. So underrated in yearbooks.

    I love that story.

    And I hope you find that book.

  23. WOW! I can’t believe I wasn’t familiar with his work – thanks! 🙂 e

  24. JES: That is fantastic. Thanks for sharing. Good luck with the book hunt!

    Denise: Good luck to him! 🙂

  25. I’m soo scared of posting this comment right now. Reading through comments after each post in this blog makes me see a very tight knit community amongst you guys. For now, I shall continue lurking around and appreciating every post and wonderful comment I read on here.

    No kicks for now. Next week, perhaps.


  26. […] just this past April in fact, Julie Danielson over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast covered a children’s picture book, Frog Song, written by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by […]

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.