Top 100 Picture Books #15: Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
#15 Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel (1970)
I put a lot of thought into which Frog and Toad book to put on here. They are all brilliant, but I find Frog and Toad Together a bit trippy with Toad’s crazy dream sequence and the seriously snake in “Dragons and Giants.” Frog and Toad All Year is super lovely, but is almost a seasonal book. And I just find Days With Frog and Toad devastating. Is it me, or are those two seriously starting to grow apart by the end? I know Frog said he just wanted some alone time, but Toad took it really, really hard. I seriously worry that, if there had been a fifth book, they may have had a serious fight and Toad may have been irreparably damaged. I’m not joking. This is something I seriously think about. – Shannon Ozimy
The perfect friendship book, made even more amazing because it is an early reader. Quite frankly, I find most early chapter books and beginning readers to be sleep-inducers, but Lobel’s mastery of language make these a joy to read aloud and to listen to (if you happen to be a parent of a new reader!) – Heather Christensen
I don’t know if this quite counts as a picture book since it’s an easy reader, but I’ve always read it as a bedtime story to my girls. I adore this collection. Seriously. How can you not love Toad’s obsessivenes, and Frog’s Zen-like calm in the wake of Toad’s storm. There are probably some life lessons here, but much like Toad, I just want the cookies. – Melissa Fox
There’s something about the easy reader format that lends itself to tales of true friendship. Maybe the easy reader format coincides perfectly with the fact that kids of that reading level/age are making big social leaps. Whatever the case, whether it’s George & Martha, Houndsley & Catina, or the friendship to beat all friendship in Frog & Toad, these are two blokes worth remembering.
The description from Kirkus reads, “A leggy green frog and a squat green toad do for friendship something of what Little Bear does for kinship. Come April Toad’s reluctance to end his long winter nap (“A little more sleep will not hurt me”) prompts lonesome Frog to pull off the calendar pages one by one until he reaches stay-awake May. Then there’s “The Story” Toad can’t think up when Frog is sick which becomes the story–of how Toad made himself sick standing on his head and hitting it against a wall trying–told him by a recovered Frog. “A Lost Button” turns up at home after Frog has found every button but for Toad (who makes suit-able amends). But the best is yet to come–in Toad’s anxiety that he looks funny in his bathing suit (which keeps him shivering in the water) and his brusque “Of course I do” when Frog and the others laugh. At the last, affectingly if more predictably, is “The Letter” that Frog writes to Toad so he’ll get some mail. . . and sends by snail.”
The origin story can be found in Anita Lobel’s 100 Best Books for Children. She says that on a summer vacation to Lake Bomoseen, Lobel’s children came in with “a large green shiny frog and two dour and dyspeptic toads.” Years later Lobel felt that “he had been writing at children, rather than for them.” So he put pen to paper and out came a story about a frog and a toad. Now at an exhibit at The Carle some years ago there was a great exhibit called Seeking a State of Grace: The Art of Arnold Lobel. While I examined the man’s art at length I saw that in the original sketches Frog & Toad were originally conceived as male and female. Somewhere along the lines something changed. Most interesting.
I was hoping that maybe there would be some unknown tidbits about Frog & Toad in Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom but alas it was not to be. Though Nordstrom did indeed work with Lobel, Frog & Toad came too late in the game, I guess. However, the book does offer some insights into the man’s career. According to Leonard Marcus’s footnotes, “Lobel began his career in children’s books in the late 1950s as the illustrator of several books of Jewish interest published by Ktav.”
- A nice piece that includes a discovery of the original manuscript for Frog & Toad Are Friends in the Kerlan collection.
In a starred review Kirkus said of it, “Imperfect friendship or it wouldn’t be true–and most perfectly expressed in their faces.”
If you read the comments up above then you would have seen Shannon’s concerns about Frog and Toad growing apart in later books. This next video is from the Broadway production of A Year With Frog and Toad which includes adventures from all of their books. In fact the scene is the one that worried her in particular. It makes for a lovely song certainly.
Or, if you want a song that relates directly to a story in this book, there was the one for frog’s bathing suit:
That leads nicely into the mildly creepy claymation Frog & Toad series of yore. Here is that same story told a different way:
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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