It’s Frog and Toad are Friends, written in 1970, the first in a series of three (or four?) by Arnold Lobel. This, my friends, is an I Can Read Book (as are the Dr. Seuss books). And as much as it riles a little private place in my soul to get excited about a book that touts the important but also oh-so-overly laudatory “I Can Read!” moment, I still do. Why do I like this book? First and foremost: Toad. It’s all about Toad. He’s the sort of character I find all too comfortably endearing. He’s Eeyore to Poo, he’s Jack to Algernon, he’s Cameron to Ferris Bueller. He’s grumpy, gullible, and self-defensive, he’s your sadly loveable grandfather and your childhood best curmudgeon friend all rolled into one. He wears striped, full body bathing suits and wool jackets, and he sleeps a lot. Life’s outwardly hard for these kind of guys, but inside, they like their grumbly-ness. It also doesn’t hurt that the other compelling element of this book is that Toad’s yin has its yang. After all, it’s Toad and Frog. And when they’re together, life’s all good in the pond.
There’s three stories in this one book, call them loosely connected chapters even. It’s not exactly a picture book, the drawings are basic and few. But unlike most of the other books I tend to write about, in this case, it really is about the stories. There’s something so touching in the honest way these two guys relate to one another. It’s almost like an old couple at antics they’ve been practicing for 30 odd years, and the reader gets to catch them in their special moments. Moments of caring for each other or playing tricks on one another, of honesty and consideration.
If you want to read into the words just a little bit (and the pictures), there is a romantic relationship between the two amphibians. Frog and Toad are a couple of sorts. I’m not saying that any caring relationship between men makes for a sexual one, and I wouldn’t call this romance sexual either (come on, still a kid’s book). Frog and Toad skip through the meadows, count the stars together, stand close, hug, nurse one another, sew for one another, and ultimately spend the entire year side by side. They are indeed best friends, and their relationship in this book blurs the boundary between romance and friendship in a way both enlightened and unique. Who knows, maybe Toad and Frog are fighting through the prejudices against two men in love or prejudices against interspecies affection, but that would all be in the outskirts of the book. We readers only get the tender moments, the moments where love is friendship. And really, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple like the words, simple like the stories. Simple and good. Like the title says, Frog and Toad are friends. And I Can Read between the lines. But it shouldn’t be between the lines. Because romance and friendship… it can be a pretty fine line.
Also, Check out this 2007 post from Guy Dads– Two Married Gay Jewish Dads. Says some good stuff about Frog and Toad… and, on their advice, soon to check into And Tango Makes Three.
Love love love this book. Great review!!