When my boys first ventured into reading grade one chapter books, they were delighted to discover Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. Featuring a wonderful friendship and many happy adventures, the Frog and Toad series has been a favourite with young readers for decades.
James Howe’s latest book, Houndlsey and Catina is very reminiscent of the Frog and Toad series. Howe is famous for Bunnicula (Today Vegetables… Tomorrow the World). Houndlsey and Catina will appeal to younger readers who prefer shorter, generously illustrated chapters and less text. It will likely suit a child reading at a mid to late grade one level.
Houndlsey and Catina written by James Howe and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay Chapter book series for kindergarten – grade three published by Candlewick Press
Illustrated beautifully by Marie-Louis Gay, Houndlsey and Catina tells of Catina’s desire to write a prize-winning book and Houndleys’ wish to win a cooking contest. Together, they help us see that being friends “is better than being famous..” This is a lovely tribute to friendship.
Gummytoes – written and illustrated by Sean Cassidy Gummytoes is a tree frog who can change the colour of his skin and leap great distances. He longs to be admired so he steps into the limelight and amazes the neighbourhood children with his antics. The squealing youngsters respond by grabbing him and putting him into their terrarium. Before long Gummytoes discovers that being the centre of attention is not all he had hoped. He is lucky. He is able to use his special qualities to escape and make his way home.
This is a story that will encourage readers to consider the impact of capturing creatures for display. In addition to entertaining youngsters, Gummytoes provides factual information about gray tree frogs. The book could be used to prompt discussions about animals that use camouflage, nocturnal animals, natural habitats of tree frogs and wild creatures living in urban areas.
Suitable for children aged 4-8
Gummytoes was shortlisted for the 2006 Syrca Shining Willow ( in the Best Picture Book category) and the 2005 OLA Blue Spruce (also in the Best Picture Book category). It was also a Canadian Children’s Book Centre Our Choice selection in 2005.
Leon’s Song – written by Stephanie Simpson McClellan and illustrated by Dianna Bonder “If you saw Leon dozing in the sun, you might think age had made him all quiet and peaceful inside. You might think he was content to spend his day resting and remembering. But you’d be wrong…As old as Leon was, his heart was young with yearning.”
Leon is an old frog who dreams of doing something important. Although he lacks beauty, power and physical strength, Leon wishes most for a beautiful singing voice. When a dark, threatening shadow appears in the pond, Leon’s world is about to change. Fortunately his special talent is unveiled and the pond is profoundly transformed. A beautifully illustrated, thoughtful tale.
I share Leon’s Song with children every summer. I use it as part of a frog theme in a kindergarten program but the story goes well beyond frogs and pond life. It is a joyous celebration of self acceptance, finding one’s voice and making a difference.
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