The Secret of the Stone Frog by D. Nytra
Nytra, David. The Secret of the Stone Frog. Somerville: TOON Books, 2012. Print.
The Secret of the Stone Frog is the first graphic novel for children from newcomer David Nytra. This book seems to be steeped in various traditions from children’s literature, making it at once new, yet familiar. Anthropomorphic animals, delightful and peculiar worlds, and adventure in a dream are just a few of the traditions that Nytra draws from. Siblings Leah and Alan wake up one morning and are surprised to find themselves in the middle of an enchanted forest. As they are wondering how to get home, a stone frog speaks up and offers to be their guide. On their journey home, the brother and sister travel through a strange and spectacular world, not unlike Alice in Wonderland, where they encounter fantastic creatures at every turn. First they come across a garden with giant bees, then an orchard with enormous cherries where they meet some lions that play croquet and keep giant rabbits as pets. The lions, who are dressed as dandies, are both friendly and familiar; you feel like you know them from somewhere but you’re not quite sure where, and you wish you could spend some more time with them. Later in their travels, Leah and Alan encounter walking deep-sea creatures dressed in Victorian hats and suits, oddly proportioned humans, and buildings that seem to be fluid and alive. Upon returning home, Leah announces that their parents have decided she is old enough to have her own room, leaving the reader wondering if this was a final journey into a fantasy world, or a first journey that was meant to prepare Alan to go back on his own.
Not surprisingly, readers are drawn into the fantasy world right from the very first panel. Nytra’s black and white pen and ink drawings are stunning. Finely rendered, busy backgrounds contrast with the simple shapes and faces of the children and the frogs. Further contrast is noticeable between things that are depicted realistically and those that are more cartoonish. Nytra masterfully uses black and white to enhance the feeling of the story; some panels are light and whimsical while others are dark and frightening. Simple dialogue makes this book accessible for young readers in grades two and three, although older children that are fond of fantasy are also likely to enjoy this charming book.
Some illustrations may frighten young children.
Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Metthea Maddern
Matthea is a Masters student in the Teacher-Librarianship through Distance Learning Program at the University of Alberta.