The best moment in this English-language debut, first published in Japan in 2003, comes as Mother and Father Frog try to keep their 999 tadpoles safe from predators as they search for a bigger pond. "Keep hopping," Father warns, "or a scary snake might get you." Father widens his eyes and sticks out his tongue to show his children what a snake looks like, but it's too late: the next spread reveals a dozen tadpoles holding onto the tail of a large, red... snake. "Like THIS?" they ask. (Kimura quickly reassures readers: "The snake was sleeping peacefully. It must just have eaten.") When a hawk seizes Father soon after, what looks like a crisis instead delivers the frogs to a roomy new home. Kimura views the natural world with humor and urges readers not to give in to discouragement ("This is great," says a tadpole as the hawk drags the entire family through the sky. "What a view!" says another.) Murakami's naïf spreads, with plenty of white space and many small, absorbing images on every page, ease the tension and provide laughs. Ages 4–8. (June)
From the Publisher
"Murakami’s impish, toy-bright illustrations look — almost — as if a talented 4-year-old might have painted them. In contrast to Hello Kitty-style Japanese Neo-Pop, they have a distinctly, even stubbornly, handmade feel. Besides setting the stage for outlandish fun, the message they convey is unmistakable: Nothing in these pages is not for children. The result is an uncommon picture book designed not only to entertain young people but also to give them their due." The New York Times Book Review
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
One spring, 999 tadpoles are born to proud frog parents. When they grow into frogs, the pond is too crowded. As they leave, their mother warns them to be careful and follow their father. Across a field they trail, becoming tired and hungry. When their father says a scary snake may get them, it turns out that they have found one. "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" As they run, a hungry hawk swoops down to grab Father. And he won't let go, so Mother and the other frogs hang on to him as he is lifted into the sky. At first the hawk is pleased with his catch. But the small frogs get restless and wiggly. The hawk lets go. Down they plunge, fortunately into a BIG pond, and a new home. The frog family and predators, more symbolically than naturalistically represented, are designed for scary action. The close-up of the hawk's claws grabbing Father is particularly effective. Double-page scenes display "lollypop trees"; blobs of clouds surround the airborne family. A clever design challenge is met as we follow the chain of amphibians and their ultimate separation. Very simple, flatly colored visuals help tell the equally simple adventure. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Kimura chronicles a tale of family teamwork, accompanied by Murakami's comic art. Mother and Father Frog, proud of their 999 offspring's energy and growth, lead the youngsters toward a bigger home. En route, they escape a snake, but a hungry hawk grabs Father. Mother, then each tadpole in succession, latches on to create a heavy, winding line that the youngsters enjoy, but the bird can not keep hold, despite his delight in this "year's supply of frogs." All of the amphibians fall into a large pond and end with a rousing chorus of "ribbits." Use this story for comic relief when discussing life cycles or food chains. Murakami's simple cartoons and panoramic vistas of the journey will also entertain storytimers.—Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA
Having outgrown their pond, a frog family moves out, crossing a field where they meet a scary snake and then a hungry hawk that unwittingly flies them to a perfect home.
Opening with an image of proud parents admiring their numerous tadpoles in a circular pond, the next spread shows the grown froglets, crowding each other beyond the pond's borders. Mother says, "We'll have to move," so off they go, following their father in a long, long line. Kimura captures the impatience of children on a trip ("When will we get there?").Murakami, an illustrator well-known in Japan, uses just enough detail in his expressive images to make his simple, suggestive shapes and crayon line meaningful. With their extensive white space, these illustrations will show well to a group. When the hawk captures father and the rest of the family holds on, the landscape tilts and the line of young frogs is reduced to a chain of dots, emphasizing the height and distance of their flight. Their splash into a new, large pond is immensely satisfying. (First published in Japan in 2003, this tale may be confused with a book/CD kit that has the same English title but a different narrative arc, published in Australia but also available here.)
This well-paced journey, with just enough tension to keep young listeners engaged, will be a solid storytime choice. (Picture book. 3-7)
Leonard S. Marcus
What's fascinating for an American reader is, first, how utterly matter-of-fact, in a book intended for preschoolers, Ken Kimura is about predation in the wild…and second, how adeptly both he and the illustrator, Yasunari Murakami, incorporate the few truly scary parts of their tale within a larger framework that leaves ample room for tongue-in-cheek dialogue and a happy ending…The result is an uncommon picture book designed not only to entertain young people but also to give them their due.
The New York Times