Two letters—from grandmother to granddaughter and vice versa—frame this otherwise wordless story of a toad named Gem. Over a spread of a New England cottage in the midst of a snowstorm, a letter from “Gram” to her granddaughter Hope explains the book’s genesis: the girl’s discovery of a toad the previous spring (“I wanted to tell the story of Gem’s spring journey—all the way to my garden”). At the end, a thank-you note from Hope reveals her as a thoughtful, strong-spirited child (“Toads are not pets,” she writes, explaining why she let Gem go. “They want to be free, like everything does”). Hobbie’s (Everything but the Horse) watercolor and pen-and-ink closeups are done with care that recalls Beatrix Potter’s. Some are filled in with generous backgrounds of flowers and greenery, while others show Gem alone on the white page, leaping, courting, and sitting among his offspring. The view of Gem on the last page, reveling in the garden’s moonlight, will convince readers that Gem is better off in the wild. Hobbie clearly delights in painting the arrival of spring, and Gem is its living embodiment. Up to age 3. (Apr.)
"The watercolor and ink pictures themselves are a pure and verdant delight.... a welcome reminder of spring and of the truth that, like all wild animals, 'toads are not pets. They want to be free, like everything does.'"
Library Media Connection
"A shining star in the collection of Holly Hobbie books."
From the Publisher
* "Luminous watercolor, pen and ink illustrations. A palette of fresh greens and yellows heralds springtime, while varying frame sizes and perspectives allow readers to view the realistically rendered toad's cross-country ramble from multiple view.... A stunning gem indeed."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Hobbie clearly delights in painting the arrival of spring, and Gem is its living embodiment."—Publishers Weekly, starred review"
Hobbie's watercolor with pen-and-ink illustrations are wonderful. The toad is depicted realistically while still imbued with personality and comic expressions, making it an engaging character.... a nearly wordless toad-a-riffic time."—School Library Journal"
The watercolor and ink pictures themselves are a pure and verdant delight.... a welcome reminder of spring and of the truth that, like all wild animals, 'toads are not pets. They want to be free, like everything does.'"—The Bulletin"
A shining star in the collection of Holly Hobbie books."—Library Media Connection
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Gem is introduced with a letter from "Gram" to Hope. She explains that the book is her telling the story of the "small wonder" Hope discovered in her garden last spring and how he got there. The story book has, and needs, no words. A toad sets out to explore the world, meets another large toad, and has many little ones. One escapes a hawk and is found in her garden by an excited Hope. But, as she says in her thank you letter to her grandmother, Hope realizes that he is not a pet. So we see Gem, as she has named him, at the end of the story, peaceful and free under the moon. Hobbie renders Gem's world naturalistically with watercolors, pen, and ink. Our emotions are caught by the action from the beginning. The impressionistic garden growth and the many flying insects add to the appeal. We understand Hope's delight in catching Gem and her decision to set him free with no words necessary. Facts about toads are also included. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Hobbie puts her illustrating skill to good use in this nearly wordless book. Letters between a grandmother and her granddaughter bookend the art. Gram explains that she has written this tale about a toad's life based on the one they found in the garden. Hope's letter thanks her grandmother for the story. The bulk of the book is a pictorial biography of Gem, the toad, beginning at its emergence from hibernation to its arrival in the garden. In between, it manages to defy death by bird and car, have some babies (completely innocuously), and do a lot of hopping. Hobbie's watercolor with pen-and-ink illustrations are wonderful. The toad is depicted realistically while still imbued with personality and comic expressions, making it an engaging character. Children will not only follow its trials and tribulations, but also get completely involved in its survival. Pair this lovely book with David Wiesner's Tuesday (Clarion, 1991) for a nearly wordless toad-a-riffic time.—Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH
Hobbie explores the wonders of spring through the eyes of a toad that survives the perils and pleasures of its trek to a country garden, where he encounters the author's granddaughter, Hope. Opening with a letter explaining how Hope's discovery of a toad named Gem inspired her to "tell the story of Gem's spring journey," Hobbie wordlessly chronicles this odyssey in luminous watercolor, pen and ink illustrations. A palette of fresh greens and yellows heralds springtime, while varying frame sizes and perspectives allow readers to view the realistically rendered toad's cross-country ramble from multiple angles. They begin with ground-level snaps of him emerging from beneath dandelions. Close-ups show a stunned, shaken Gem nearly creamed by a car. A double-page spread of dandelion-dotted fields reveals Gem's tiny figure resolutely hopping down a dirt road, while a close-up of Gem wooing a female toad is followed by a spread of Gem surrounded by bouncing baby toads. A harrowing aerial view shows Gem frantically fleeing a swooping hawk; a ground-level shot reveals him hiding in foliage; and a rear close-up spies Gem exiting a birdbath. Eventually, Gem winds up in Hope's hands for an eye-to-eye look, followed by his release into the insect-filled garden and Hope's letter thanking Gram for her story. A stunning gem indeed. (notes about toads) (Picture book. 2-5)