City Dog, Country Frog

 

Title: City Dog, Country Frog
Author: Mo Willems
Illustrator: Jon J. Muth
Published: Hyperion Books for Children, 2010

 

I have to admit something: I’m a huge Mo Willems fan. Everyone in this house is, really. We have the entire Elephant and Piggie series, the three Knuffle Bunny books, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and a random assortment of other books he’s written. And they are all good. Really, all of them. They’re fun to read, my girls love them (and have literally memorized all of the Elephant and Piggie books), the art is cute. (Side note: Elephant and Piggie are adorable as felt hand puppets. How do I know this? Because I made about ten of each for my daughter’s school this year!)

Anyway, Mo Willems is a rock star. Really. He’s in my ‘if I could take five famous people to lunch and pick their brains’ group. I think he’s the bee’s knees.

And then there’s Jon J. Muth. I didn’t know much about him before I read Zen Shorts. I LOVED the art so much, I remember showing my husband and having him say, “Oh, Jon J. Muth? Yeah, he’s pretty amazing.” Apparently, Mr. Muth is a comic artist along with being a children’s book illustrator and that’s where Karl (my husband) had first seen his work. (Another side note: Karl is a giant comic book /superhero nerd. He is to comics what I am to picture books. Our house just has a lot of books, is what I’m saying.)

So! You can imagine my joy when I received a book that was written by the amazing Mr. Willems and illustrated by the talented Mr. Muth. Karl bought me the book for my birthday one year and I proceeded to read it and ugly cry at the table.

Good times, good times.

But the point is, the book is outstanding. It’s so very touching, so very sweet. It’s about a dog who ends up moving to the country. He runs through the grass and ends up at a pond where he meets Frog. Frog teaches Dog frog games and they splash and have a really great time together. That was in the spring. Next, it’s summertime and Dog teaches Frog dog games. They fetch and sniff and bark. Summer gives way to fall, and Frog is tired. Dog and Frog play remembering games. Then, right at the end of the season, Dog has fallen asleep and you can see Frog give him a little wave.

Then winter comes and Dog heads for Frog’s rock, but Frog isn’t there.

The saddest, most poignant moment of the book for me is when Dog is sitting alone in the snow. Just…looking for his friend. And his friend is gone.

When spring comes again, Dog is sad. He heads to the pond, hoping to find his friend. Of course, Frog is really gone. But there is a chipmunk. With memories of his froggy friend in his heart (and a froggy smile on his face), Dog decides that perhaps, as a friend, Chipmunk will do.

This book is perfection for three reasons:

  1. It handles the topic of loss/death/the circle of life so sensitively and with the gentle reassurance that gone isn’t really gone. Frog remains in Dog’s heart even in the winter and the following spring. Dog will always carry a piece of Frog with him.
  2. The art is stunning. Seriously, it is absolutely gorgeous. It captures the sweetness of their friendship and the sadness of Dog’s loss beautifully.
  3. The book is just really well-written. (See: Mo Willems is a rock star.)

If you want a book that will make you smile and then cry and  then smile again, this is the one for you. Or your best friend. Or, you know, anyone.

Mama’s review: A+++
Lily’s review: “I like the part where the dog and frog make friends.”
(Vivi was too busy playing to give a review tonight.)

 

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