Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Frogs and Toads: The Frogs and Toads All Sang by Arnold Lobel

An undiscovered work by an old master is always exciting, especially when it foreshadows a major period in the creator's body of work still to come. Award-winning author/illustrator Arnold Lobel is probably best known for his Frog and Toad series, and the publication of an unknown work which presages these books is like a gift from the past.

Lobel created a little hand-made book, The Frogs and Toads All Sang, as a gift for family friends George and Crosby Bonsall, best known for her beloved Who's A Pest? series of beginning reader books. Lobel's small book of skillful pencil sketches and short, piquant poems turned up at Bonsall's estate sale and were serendipitously returned to Lobel's daughter, Adrianne, who, studiously using her father's favorite dyes, wide brushes, and technique, ("Don't be afraid to color outside the lines," he once told her), colored his simple pencil drawings with watercolors and arranged for publication this May by HarperCollins.

The illustrations themselves are joyful and ebullient, in style suggesting Lobel's later and better-known work, and the short poems they set off show the delicious ironic humor which has made his work children's classics for decades. Here, for example, is a bit of wisdom which might well have become one of the Frog and Toad stories.


A sunny day
Is made for toads
To play and leap
Down dusty roads

A rainy day
Is made for frogs
To swim in swamps
And under logs .

In weather gray
Or weather bright,
For some the day
May be just right.

And here again, it seems we have a vignette that might have sparked another amphibian tale:


There was a frog
Who had a car.
He drove it fast,
He drove it far.

He travelled
Fifty days and nights,
And never looked
At traffic lights.

"I learned to drive
Quite easily.
But I never learned
To stop," said he.

Speaking of her father's restlessness when away from his work, Adrianne Lobel writes, "All Papa wanted to do was to go home and get back to his drawing table. Now I understand that, for Arnold Lobel, there was no better fun to be had."

And now, thanks to this re-discovered work, we can still have a bit of that fun along with him.

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  • On my birthday party I was given frogs from the pet shop nearby, and after that I began to do some research about these sticky interesting animals,

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