City Dog, Country Frog

While canine bestsellers are common, a bestseller with a frog character is rare.  The picture book, CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG by Mo Willems, with watercolors by Jon J. Muth, is currently No. 9 on the New York Times children’s book bestseller list.

CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG. Words by Mo Willems, pictures by Jon J. Muth

The story is a simple one—a friendship blossoms between a dog visiting the country and a resident frog through spring, summer, and fall. When winter comes the dog searches for the frog, but can’t find him. And when spring comes around again, he realizes frog is gone. But country dog finds a new friend.

The story is something of a departure for Mo Willems, whose other books include the now classic Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! In an interview, Willems says that he realized that he needed to find another illustrator for this story—Muth’s paintings complement the spare, poignant story perfectly. City Dog’s expressions of curiosity, playfulness, sadness, happiness, and confusion are sweet and tender—and very dog-like. Country Frog is pretty expressive, too!

Here’s a bit from the School Library Journal starred review by Joy Fleishhacker:

…[T] his tale depicts the natural cycle of friendship from an enthusiastic first encounter to contented companionship to the heartbreak of loss and eventual emotional renewal. Presented with a comfortingly consistent narrative structure, the events are set against the backdrop of the changing seasons, reassuring readers that winter will turn again to spring, sadness to joy…

As summer ends and we approach the first fall holiday, Rosh Hashanah, this is a wonderful book for kids about the cycle of seasons, change and renewal, friendship, and the importance of people or animals no longer with us.

More information:

Mo Willems’ website and information about Jon J. Muth.


Literary Frogs

I worked in children’s book publishing for ten years, and we published A LOT of books with frog characters, among them The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg, The Frog Prince, Continued by Jon Scieszka, and A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer, not to mention The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (we published all the Beatrix Potter books). Those are just the few I came up with off the top of my head. I thought I’d catch up on all the recently published froglit, but there are too many new books to list, so I’m reading them all and will report back on my favorites.

It did get me thinking however…the children’s book industry has a vested interest in keeping frogs healthy! So perhaps a portion of the sale of some of these books should go toward saving frogs and other amphibians (after all, there are LOTS of books about salamanders and toads too).

The classic children’s book with amphibian characters is, of course, Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel.


I was delighted to discover that a new book by Arnold Lobel about frogs and toads has just been published: The Frog and Toads All Sang.

Lobel died in 1987, but his daughter, Adrianne Lobel, recently discovered poems about frogs and toads that her father illustrated with little sketches. Here’s an illustration from the book:


copyright 2009 by the Estate of Arnold Lobel