Author/Illustrator: Sue deGennaro
Age Group: 5-8
Synopsis: A sweet first person account involving two friends who are different but understanding.
The Low Down:
The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog embraces something that is very rarely displayed well in books. Children who are different. Not someone who likes brussel sprouts or think ninjas are cool when everyone else is talking about unicorns. I’m talking about a boy who only goes about dressed as a frog and a girl who only speaks in numbers. Sue deGennaro not only presents a fabulous story about children who think differently but also weaves in a message of friendship and incorporates cleverly thought out illustrations.
The book begins by introducing our narrator, a young boy, and Camille, his best friend. Each introduced on their own page, it’s easy to see the differences straight away. The boy is dressed as a frog, while the Camille is surrounded by math. We’re told that Camille sometimes speaks in numbers and 23 is yes, 17 is no, and six times tables mean it’s snack time. Camille helped our narrator figure out that a frog might be a better fit as a costume than a cat. Camille agrees to dress as a frog as well, though finds she’s not comfortable with the work it takes to create a really great frog costume. Frustrated the boy yells at her and Camille leaves. The title of the book interjects here as the narrator analyzes what caused the problem and how he can avoid it in the future. Then he goes to find Camille and apologize. She, in a partial frog costume, ends up finding him and the friends are reunited.
de Gennaro does some pretty magical things with these illustrations that seem to elevate the book from great to amazing. The first being the use of numbers. The reader only sees Camille speak in numbers. A companion pieces to this is that 23’s, 17’s, six times tables, and 8’s dance around the pages giving indication of the character’s feelings. There are moments when how the boy or Camille see the world are revealed to the reader making the entire experience more accessible. It is through this skillful use of perspective that de Gennaro really shines, making the story more than a tale of friendship but also one of mindfulness.
I think we naturally gravitate towards likeness. But just because something feels easy and instinctive doesn’t mean it’s right. Taking time to teach our children that inclusion and being open minded is a strength is so important. de Gennaro helps move a step closer to this goal by introducing two characters who may seem out of place. She does it in such a light loving way with such soft and thoughtful illustrations that it’s still an interesting story for kids and introduces a topic for discussion without beating anyone over the head with meaning. To say there are a lot of people in this world is an understatement. To say we’re all different is just a truth. And to live in a way that includes and accept those who differ from ourselves can sometimes be a road of constant reminders and work. But it is a road worth traveling.
- Use this story as an introduction to discuss differences in those around us and how we can accept those who have them.
- Can you figure out what 8 means?
I need more!
I haven’t read any of Sue de Gennaro’s other work but more of her great style are out there in both the form of author and illustrator. However, The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog is her only book where she is also the writer, so far. Check out more about her and her fabulous books at: http://suedegennaro.com/books
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