As this delightful picture book opens, Fox is bored of his usual meal of plain old toad, so he turns to a cookbook of toad recipes for inspiration. Having caught a sackful of small, young toads as recommended, Fox is deciding on a recipe when he is startled by the appearance of the mother of these small "toadlets," who is horrified to discover that Fox is planning to eat her babies. "Stop!" she commands him, to no avail. Mamma Toad frantically tries everything in her power to save her offspring, even offering ...
As this delightful picture book opens, Fox is bored of his usual meal of plain old toad, so he turns to a cookbook of toad recipes for inspiration. Having caught a sackful of small, young toads as recommended, Fox is deciding on a recipe when he is startled by the appearance of the mother of these small "toadlets," who is horrified to discover that Fox is planning to eat her babies. "Stop!" she commands him, to no avail. Mamma Toad frantically tries everything in her power to save her offspring, even offering herself for Fox to eat. But nothing works. Until she suggests preparing her own delicious "secret" recipe for Fox instead? -- Toad-in-the-Hole. (The secret? No toads!) Linda Bailey's story will thoroughly entertain pre-readers, as it hits the right notes of droll humor spiced with just enough suspense. The lively artwork by Colin Jack keeps the energy level high, and the scenes of the toadlets wreaking havoc on fox's kitchen while he is distracted -- rolling in honey, pelting canned peas at each other, parachuting off the cabinet using bread slices -- provide a funny visual subplot to the story that will keep youngsters involved. This book would provide a wonderful starting point for conversations about how sometimes the person who seems the strongest isn't the winner in the end, which could tie into a character education lesson on perseverance. It might also launch a discussion about trying new foods, after which the included recipe could be prepared as a classroom activity.
Bailey's dialogue is snappy and amusing, and the illustrations recall the scrappy TV-animation style of Chuck Jones.
Bailey (Stanley's Little Sister) ventures into scary, gobbling-up territory in the first few pages of this clever story as a carnivorous fox decides that young toads are tastier than old toads ("Ah, here's a good one," Fox says, thumbing through recipes as the toadlets he's caught wait wide-eyed on the counter). Luckily, Mamma Toad shows up promptly to rescue her children and, in a nice bait and switch, suggests Toad-in-a-Hole ("It has toast," she says. "You like toast, right?"). She plays Fox like a pro, fielding every objection. "What about the toads?" he asks. "Try it without," she says. "It doesn't really need toads." Thanks to Bailey's crackerjack dialogue, all Jack (1 Zany Zoo) has to do is supply appropriate pictures, which he does in loose, humorous cartoons that portray the fox in a dapper vest and natty cap, and Mamma with the red hair and elastic lips of Lucille Ball. A recipe for Toad-in-a-Hole is included. Children in foodie households accustomed to discussions of how dishes are prepared will take to this—and they'll probably enjoy Toad-in-a-Hole, too. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)
- Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Bored with his routine of catching a big fat toad at the pond and bringing it home to cook and eat, Fox consults a cookbook. There he notes that the recipes call for small young toads. So that night, at the pond, with great effort, he catches and brings home a sack of young toads to cook. He is startled by the arrival of Mama Toad, who is not pleased by his plan for her children. As the small toads make mischief everywhere, she tries to make them behave as she cleverly steers Fox to her own secret recipe, Toad in a Hole. By the time Fox realizes that it includes no toads, he has found the dish delicious. He and his family change their eating habits from then on. The recipe is included for the delight of all. Digitally produced cartoon characters are just right for this amusing tongue-in-cheek tale. The well-dressed Fox has a very long nose; Mama Toad is built for battle, but with a blue bow in her red hair. Her gang of playful youngsters adds wild fun to the comic melodrama.
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Fox is bored with the same old meal every day: a big fat toad, skinned, and boiled. So, he heads to the toad section of the local cookbook store for ideas. There, he discovers that his palate has been missing "small toads, young and tender." That very evening he heads out to the pond and makes his first big catch of bouncing, fresh young toads. Yum. He's ready for a scrumptious meal, but he didn't count on their clever mamma. Even though toads' legs sound delicious, Fox does have to concur that these babies have pretty scrawny appendages. His cookbook has a recipe for Toads on Toast that seems like a good substitute. However, Mamma suggests a better one-an old family recipe called Toad-in-a-Hole. As it turns out, the dish uses no toads. Happily, it calls only for a slice of bread with a hole cut in the center that is then filled with an egg. Frying the creation in butter, Fox finds it so much more delicious than toads that he invites Mamma and her brood to dinner. Crisis averted. The artwork, done in saturated hues, has the look of ink and watercolor and is rendered digitally. The "toadlets," all of whom have amazingly short attention spans, look less like toads and more like small, green aliens. However, their appearance works well with the humor of the story. Hungry readers will also be happy to find the recipe for this old-timey comfort food in the back matter.—Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA
Toads are not a breakfast food. You're an elementary school teacher. You hold up this picture book. Exactly half of your students say, "Ewwwww!" Exactly half look delighted. So half the class will be pleased to find out that no toads are eaten in the course of this book. Mamma Toad throws herself in front of the recipe book before Fox can cook anybody. "Wait!" she calls out. "There must be a better recipe." Jack draws each ingredient as it goes into the pan: an egg, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, bread and butter, no toads. Some of your students will want to start cooking before you've finished the book, and fortunately, Mamma Toad's Secret Toad-in-a-Hole Recipe appears at the end of the story. The words "1 toad" are crossed out. A few students will be disappointed by this, but they'll love the pictures of the swarming baby toads getting into food fights and jumping in the honey pot while Fox cooks dinner. And whether they're for or against a toad diet, almost 100 percent of your students will want to hear the book again. When the author suggests that the recipe "can be a favorite in your family, too," many people in the audience will be inclined to believe it. (Picture book. 3-7)
Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.30 (d)
Meet the Author
Linda Bailey is an award-winning author of many books for children, including Goodnight Sweet Pig, Stanley's Party, the Stevie Diamond Mysteries, and the Good Times Travel Agency series. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Colin Jack works as a story artist and character designer in the animation industry, and has been involved in such productions as Hotel Transylvania, Grossology and Ed, Edd n Eddy. He lives in Toronto, Ontario, with his wife and their two toadlets.