Frog in a Bog
John Himmelman, author & illustrator
John Himmelman is the author and illustrator of many books for children including Frog in a Bog, Mouse in a Meadow, and A Pill Bug's Life (from his Nature Upclose series), which was a CBC Outstanding Children's Science Trade Book. He lives in Connecticut with his family.
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Himmelman threads a faint plotline through clean-lined close-ups of finely-drawn flora and fauna in this introduction to bog life: a leaping frog disturbs two mosquitoes, on of whom lands on a horsetail while the other imprudently selects a carnivorous sundew. A dragonfly also perched on the horsetail spots a butterfly on a steeplebush flower; a muskrat tramples the steeplebush flower and a mole cricket scrambles out of the way and so on. The line of text running beneath each scene names only some of the plants an animals depicted, but the author identifies them all at the end, inviting readers to go back for second looks. Satisfying fare for budding naturalists.
Himmelman, author, illustrator, and naturalist, brings children into the unique environment of a bog, showing it teeming with life. The close-up begins as a frog hops from a fern to some moss, causing two mosquitoes to fly away. One of the mosquitoes lands on a sundew plant, which promptly ingests the bug. And so it goes, as chance encounters lead toward nourishment, hunger, or even death. Mostly, the animals (including one particular mammal, a human girl with binoculars) simply eye one another. There's no real narrative, just a series of events from the natural world. But children, who have an innate interest in flora and fauna (especially the creepy-crawly kind), should find this captivating, due in great measure to the delicate yet energetic ink-and-watercolor art. The close-up views and the simple field guide at the end of the book provide lots to look at; adults and kids can have fun together using this as a jumping-off place for outdoor activities.
School Library Journal
Himmelman leads children through natural events that occur on a typical day in a bog, beginning with a frog hopping into some moss. Simple sentences describe what is happening in the colorful art, reinforcing what is likely evident to children: "The frog hops from a fern and lands with a plop in the moss. Two mosquitoes fly away. One mosquito lands on a sundew. The sundew curls around it." Throughout, readers are introduced to plant, insect, and animal names that may not be commonly known and the idea that some events trigger others. Some classification lessons are included at the end of the book. The watercolor illustrations are definitely a draw: the effect is soft and delicate. Detail is beautifully rendered, and elements of the pictures often spill outside the boundaries of the frames. Back pages offer labeled pictures of plants and animals for closer inspection. This book will have broad appeal and would be suitable for sharing with a small group in a classroom setting.
More than just a story for young readers, Frog in a Bog is a true-to-life book about the insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and plants that can be found in a bog. It is also a cause-and-effect story about life, instinct, survival, and death in this rapidly disappearing environment. The details of the story illustrate the dynamic interactions of animals and plants. For example, when a frog hops off a fern, two mosquitoes move, setting up a series of events for the readers to follow.
Although the book's main audience is younger readers who can manage the simple sentences, it also has a "Where's Waldo?" quality. The reader can look onto the next page to find out where the animal from the previous page landed. At the end of the book there are lists of the different categories of life seen throughout the book. Frog in a Bog would be a great story for those lucky enough to live near a wild, wet, and wonderful bog of a place, or for those who are willing to take on a new adventure and visit one. A bog visit with young children is a great adventure, but don't forget to bring along a copy of this book.
ISBN: 978-1-60734-005-8 PDF
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Page count: 32
8 x 8