Thursday, October 18, 2012

Easy Reader Radar: Frog and Fly by Jeff Mack (Cybils Nominee)

Frog and Fly: Six Slurpy Stories. by Jeff Mack. March 15, 2012. Philomel. 40 pages. ISBN: 9780399256172

In each of the six short episodes that make up Frog and Fly ,a frog meets a fly and greets him in a friendly way. Nearly every time, the frog then outsmarts the fly and ends up swallowing him. The last time, however, the tables are turned, and the fly gets the last word.

There are a lot of subtle things that make this a wonderful easy reader for very new readers. The pages are large, as are the illustrations and text. The pictures are clear and bright, and the speech bubbles make the text seem dynamic, inviting, and fun. Though the punchline of each short episode is basically the same, the author arrives at it in a different way each time. This means that even when kids are expecting the laugh, they get caught by surprise and laugh even harder.

Though the publisher has not assigned this book a level, I think it is comparable to the My First I Can Read books. The words are very basic, and many of them are repeated from story to story. There are only a couple of words that might be tricky if a reader hasn’t seen them before, and those can be sounded out without any difficulty.

I have only one complaint, and it happens on the third page of the story. After the fly says, “Nice to meet you,” the frog replies, “Nice to eet you?” This is a set-up for the inevitable eating of the fly that happens on the next page, but “eet” is not a word, and I could imagine a new reader being confused by that. I was a bit thrown off myself at first, until I realized the story’s gimmick. The frog is pretending to misunderstand the fly so that, on the next page, he can say, “”Nice to eat you.” I think most kids will get the joke, and laugh, and move right on through the book, but it just struck me as an odd thing to do, especially so early in the book. The first story is the weakest for that reason. The others, thankfully, are spot on.

This book is a great alternative to all those mushy friendship stories that are so popular in easy readers. I think boys, especially, will relate to the somewhat morbid sense of humor, and will read the book again and again to revisit the funny moments. The most obvious read-alike for this book would be any of the titles in Tedd Arnold’s Fly Guy series. I think the give and take between the two main characters is also reminiscent of Elephant and Piggie and George and Martha, but with a welcome twist.

I borrowed Frog and Fly from my local public library. 


For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

NOTE: This book was nominated by Jessalynn Gale for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks! 

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