Before pigs will fly, frogs will go sailing. In this Caldecott Award winning book illustrating a funny story about frogs soaring through town on their lily pads, the author also demonstrates a sort of clear passage of time. The only words in the story are times of night and early morning, and then the title, a day of the week. The story traces the adventures and the aftermath of the flight of the frogs as the moon slowly rises above the horizon until the frogs splash back into their pond in the early morning light. The illustrations have a cartoonish feel to them at times, while also retaining a very realistic consistency. This book would be a delight to young children with wild imaginations and yet realistic perceptions of the world around them.
The book begins with a cartoon style strip of a few frogs drowsing as the moon begins to rise. The frogs, much to their surprise and ours, suddenly begin to levitate on their little lily pads. As hundreds of frogs float into the sky, one can see the clock tower in the distance showing the time of “a little before eight P.M.”. The frogs continue on their adventure into town, where hundreds of houses with a few lights shining in the windows. The frogs careen through the sky, terrifying some sleeping birds, performing barrel rolls through the night, and even chasing a dog or two through the yard en masse. While the dog will certainly never forget the incident, only one person seems to have noticed the daring-do of the frogs: a man eating a sandwich at “11:21 P.M.” As the morning draws closer, however, the lily pads suddenly lose their flying ability, and the reader sees the astonished look on the frogs’ faces just before they plop to the ground. They hippity hop back to their lily pond, leaving their lily pads for astonished adults the next day. While the frogs are disappointed to end their fun, the story ends with the shadows of pigs soaring away from their barn on the “Next Tuesday, 7:58 P.M.”
While this book is very enjoyable to read and look at, I did not find myself very drawn into the story. I am not a fan of large bull-frogs, however, and I had trouble registering the emotions of the frogs even after several read throughs. The realistic nature of the frogs and the town, mixed with the cartoonish look of the different expressions left me confused and slightly disappointed with the story. But I certainly believe that this story would be much more enjoyable for all involved if read out loud and walked through very slowly with a very small group of children. Then, I as the reader could make sure the kids were registering what I struggled to notice so that they can see the hilarity, as well as the clear passage of time. One clever hint that I greatly enjoyed was on the inside dust-jacket to the story, where the author states, “The events recorded here are verified by an undisclosed source to have happened somewhere, U.S.A., on Tuesday. All those in doubt are reminded that there is always another Tuesday.” This, I thought is what redeems the confusion and bemusing illustrations in the story, for just as time clearly passed in the story, so time will clearly pass till the next Tuesday. And who knows what is happening late at night when the rest of us are asleep.