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Th Frog Who Wanted to See the Sea Hardcover – August 31, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The illustrator Guy Billout works the narrow but fertile territory where clarity intersects with mystery. It's a place where the graffiti might read Rene Magritte Was Her (de Chirico, Too), but Billout's concerns are his own: his drawings (or are they paintings? or both?) often employ tricks of scale and perspective, along with large expanses of deceptively flat color, compositions that resolve in witty visual jokes while tapping deeper currents of unease. They're bright, figuratively and literally, like dreams dreamt under a noonday desert sun rather than in the usual shape-shifting murk.
Billout is perhaps best known for his long association with The Atlantic Monthly, but he also makes regular visits to the Book Review's list of each year's 10 best illustrated books for children. The Frog Who Wanted to See the Sea is his latest picture book, and it's lovely, with folk tale overtones and illustrations kids and adults can lose themselves in. (Isnt' that what we really want from a picture book- a low-tech virtual-reality experience?)
Our heroine is Alice, a little green frog who is growing restless within the confines of her small pond: Alice knew every inch of the pond's murky bottom and every hiding place amoung the reeds. She knew too, that she could swim from one side to the other with 28 kicks of her back legs. Spurred by a loquacious sea gull, Alice gets it into her head to leave home, taking only a rolled-up lily pad- great detail- to venture forth and see the ocen. A quest narrative, as they say.
The psychological hook for young children (or midlife parents) is obvious. Fortunately, Billout, whose writing is as disciplined as his artwork, doesn't drive home the point with a nail gun in the manner of, say, Katzenberg-era Disney animation. Instead his story unfold simply, with grace, nuance and high style. I particularly loved his description of Alice's first sighting of the ocean, which comes after a troubled sleep adrift on her pad: When Alice awoke the next morning, all she could see was blue. She looked in every direction for green riverbanks. In a moment of both joy and fright, she realized that she had reached the sea. Alice croaked softly. ... The only reply was a gust of wind that blew across the surface of the water. The hook here- the lostness- is again compelling, and the illustration, of Alice riding a wave that honors Billout's debt to traditional Japanese printmaking, is a thing of subtle beauty. But it's that moment of both joy and fright that rally gets me. Beyond encouraging feelings, how many children's books bother with that kind of emotional duality, let alone conflict? While Alice eventually makes it back to her pond safe, sound and as waterlogged as an amphibian would want to be, the moral of her story won't be There's no place like home. Billout understands that most of his readers, or listeners, will continue to find the wider world beguiling, as they should, and his book ends with an outward-bound coda that small children may find both unsettling and alluring- and funny. He knows exactly how to challenge them, a talent less obvious than his draftsmanship but no less remarkable. --New York Times Best Illustrated Books

About the Author

Guy Billout worked in advertising in Paris before moving to New York in 1969 and launching his career as an illustrator. His unusual and often humorous illustrations were featured regularly in The Atlantic Monthly for 24 years and continue to appear in such prominent periodicals as The New Yorker and The New York Times. He has written and illustrated eight picture books, four of which were named to The New York Times annual Ten Best Illustrated Children's Books list. This is his second Creative Editions title, after 1993's Journey. He lives with his wife Linda in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 and up
  • Grade Level: 2 and up
  • Hardcover: 29 pages
  • Publisher: Creative Editions (August 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568461887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568461885
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,226,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The New Yorker" illustrator Guy Billout presents his latest children's picturebook, The Frog who Wanted to See the Sea, about a timid little frog named Alice with a grand dream, who dares to venture from her comfortable, humdrum pond in her quest to see the sea for herself. Her journey will lead her to bigger and bigger bodies of water, and introduce her to unusual friends - including the mysterious reflection of the moon. The striking illustrations vividly contrast light, shadow, and perspective in this wondrous tale of discovery.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Van Derman on October 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my two daughters, age 3 and 5. The drawings are superb, very elegantly and imaginatively rendered. We were slightly disappointed by the story. It starts out well enough, the frog's desire to leave her little world behind had us all turning the pages, but the conclusion is not at all satisfying. Without getting too specific, the ending relies on a "magic moment" that falls flat. And it became hard for my girls to identify with the frog and her journey, when it all dissolved into a kind of magical non-realism. I think it would have been much stronger if the author had stuck to a more naturalistic ending, and imparted some real-life lesson or wisdom at the end of the journey. After a few readings, the girls have rarely asked me to get the book off the shelf. As much as we all love the pictures, the story failed to capture any of our imaginations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Milani on December 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is brilliantly illustrated throughout. While the story itself may not be great, it's short enough so you can still enjoy turning through the pages and looking at the illustrations. And if you're reading to your kids, you know it helps if the pictures can hold their attention. My 6 year old son and 4 year old daughter both enjoy reading this book together.
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