Customer Reviews: The Secret of the Stone Frog: A TOON Graphic (The Leah and Alan Adventures)
Your Garage botysf16 Amazon Fashion Learn more Discover it $5 Albums Fire TV Stick Sun Care Patriotic Picks Shop-by-Room Amazon Cash Back Offer roadies roadies roadies  Amazon Echo  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Echo Dot  Amazon Tap  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 All-New Kindle Oasis UniOrlando Best Camping & Hiking Gear in Outdoors

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars11
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:$13.10+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon October 29, 2012
In this artistic old-school, black-and-white graphic novel from the Toon Books imprint of Candlewick Press, siblings Leah and Alan awaken in an enchanted forest and have to depend upon each other and the occasional sayings of a talking stone frog to guide them home. Along the way they encounter a woman who keeps giant bees as pets, lions dressed up as eighteenth century gentry who ride around on giant rabbits, buildings that literally talk, and several other strange and bizarre sights. Will Leah and Alan ever return home again?

THE SECRET OF THE STONE FROG is written in a whimsical style that is strongly reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. For instance, the female beekeeper bares and uncanny resemblance to the Queen of Hearts (just look at that giant head). The story is interesting enough and the beautifully rendered illustrations are sure to keep children entertained.

However, there are two major flaws with THE SECRET OF THE STONE FROG. The first is that it is so derivative of other children's stories, there is very little originality in the story itself. The situations and characters are different, yet they evoke memories of other stories you read as a child once upon a time. Derivation isn't a bad thing, but the excess amount of it in the story spoils what originality is found here.

The second major flaw is that neither Leah or Alan learn anything on their journey. For instance, in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Alice came into her own and was able to stand against the Queen of Hearts and her soldiers. Nothing of the sort happens to Leah and Alan. In fact, just before the end of the siblings journey they find themselves running away from chaos they are partially responsible by not having listened to the instructions given them at the beginning of their journey. By the time the siblings come to the end of their journey, other than the apparent experiences they have shared, they are no different than when they began.

Overall, THE SECRET OF THE STONE FROG is a gorgeously illustrated children's graphic novel. The book will entertain young readers, but the extreme derivation smothers the original elements of the tale and the lack of any moral or character development prevents the book from being highly recommended.
0Comment|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
It's the old if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods quandary reinvented for the comic book age: If a graphic novel for children references a century old comic predecessor, does it matter if no one gets the reference? This is where it's hard to be an adult reviewing books for children. My frame of reference not only encompasses the books published during my own lifetime, but thanks to copious reading I'm familiar with historical works as well. A kid's perspective is going to be completely different. They've seen so little that everything is new to them, for good or for ill. Now take David Nytra's ambitious, not to mention gorgeous, The Secret of the Stone Frog. Here we have a little book that owes some of its existence to stories like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the like, sure. But what makes my own little heart go pitta-pat is the fact that Nytra has clearly supped from the cup of Little Nemo by Winsor McCay and in every frame of this GN that influence beams through like a bloody searchlight. So, though I'm stuck fast in my own frame of references, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that even if a reader isn't familiar with Little Nemo (a fact that should be remedied post haste) they will still grow hugely fond of Nytra's latest.

In the dark of a gentle forest Leah and Alan wake to find themselves in their beds but very far from home. They immediately make the acquaintance of a helpful, if somewhat maniacal looking, stone frog who points them on the path home. Yet paths are meant to be strayed from and along their travels the kids meet everyone from well-to-do lions to giant rabbits to fish men to a bee woman. Getting home requires finding the frogs, but it also requires one to be smart and resourceful. Fortunately for Alan and Leah, they are precisely that.

TOON Books typically create easy reading graphic novels for the very young set. With Stone Frog they're branching a bit out of their comfort zone to draw in a slightly older set of readers. This is a book tapered towards the 2nd and 3rd graders of the world. You might not realize it at first, but it's a soft storyline. The threats posed by the stone frog's world are no more dangerous than Wonderland was to Alice (sans the Red Queen's penchant for dismemberment). Leah and Alan must face oversized fuzzy bees, angry architecture, and maybe the odd pickpocket (emphasis on the "odd"). Yet Nytra takes care to show that this is a pastoral world full of beauty. We often linger on a view of a wren on a branch or birds in the trees, and the general sense to the reader is that this is a fantasy world that they themselves might want to visit. Or, at the very least, nap in.

The words in the book are very simple and to the point, but here they have a distinct advantage over Little Nemo. If you've never read McCay's classic comic series, the newspaper comic concerned itself with the nightly dreams of a little boy in a nightshirt going on elaborate adventures until he woke up (either willingly or unwillingly). Visually the series had no equal, but when it came to wordplay McCay wasn't exactly the world's foremost linguist. Nytra, in contrast, is capable of giving Leah and Alan distinct and interesting personalities using just the sheerest minimum of words.

Speaking of personalities, can I indulge in a sentence or two concerning the dandy lions? I assume they are lions and not teddy bears as some reviewers have speculated, if only because the phrase "dandy lion" suits them far better than "dandy teddy bear". At one point Alan and Leah fall asleep in a cherry orchard after having eaten some of its fruits. They are discovered by George, James, and Charles, an elaborately costumed pride (the Library of Congress summary calls them "foppish") that are undoubtedly a reference to something specific that I am not quite getting (kings of England perhaps . . . but then why is Charles muffled in a scarf and mumbles all his words?). They are fairly adorable, even if one has the distinct feeling after meeting them that there is a LOT Nytra is packing in here that we're missing. For example, when the children mention that they've met the stone frog, George and Charles exchange this significant look that means something. But what? Basically all I would like at this point is for Mr. Nytra to write a sequel to this book that is all about the lions. Nothing else will appease me.

The age of the book's readers poses an interesting question in and of itself. You may have heard the general publishing wisdom that by and large the 21st century child reader will eschew any and all black and white comics in favor of their colored equivalents. Though this statement does not apply to all kids everywhere, I have noticed that significant swaths of them do prefer color. That's why you've been seeing clever publishers employ a strategic one-color strategy on books like Fangbone, Babymouse, and Lunch Lady. What I would like to know is when precisely this preference kicks in. My thinking is that enjoying color is a learned response and that if you get kids young enough then you'll be able to appeal to their sense of whimsy over their need for a color spectrum. The only danger in this case is that kids might see the sophisticated cover on this book (a cover that is the very definition of class) and think it's too old for them. It may take a bit of parental/teacher/librarian intervention to convince them otherwise.

Do they even make pen nibs as small as Nytra must require them to be? Or does he draw his subjects on enormous sheets of parchment paper then shrink them down to size in post? I don't know and the book isn't saying. However he does it, the results are magnificent. Alan and Leah in their nightclothes make for two perfectly white spaces on the otherwise crowded pages. In the final scene they run helter-skelter through a world where the very paving stones are in the process of turning into something reptilian. Yet with their clear-cut clothing and smart speech bubbles (making a good speech bubble is an art in and of itself) you never are in doubt as to their location. Then there are the details that fill the scenes. Look close enough at Nytra's subjects and you come to believe that this world of his has been built on the back of some other fallen civilization. Alan and Leah pick their way over crumbled stuccos and rotted columns of cities long since gone. Kid readers won't care (just as Alan and Leah don't) but for adult readers it's just another layer in an endlessly fascinating visual experience.

As I mentioned before, for all its fun and beauty, the trick to this book will be getting kids to start reading it in the first place. For the true graphic novel diehards this shouldn't be a challenge, and for emerging readers a simple nudge might be enough. It's those color-centric kids that will prove the hardest to engage. The ones who eschew The Arrival and even Raina Telgemeier's Baby-Sitters Club series for brighter fare. Get them interested and you'll have them proclaiming the greatness of the book to their friends free of charge. And honestly, this is truly a book worth discovering. Beautiful to the core.

For ages 7-12.
0Comment|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 100 REVIEWERon June 7, 2013
This is one of the hardest books I've tried to review - it seems to straddle both sides of any adjective I hope to apply to it.

On the one hand, the illustrations are exquisite - highly detailed, original, distinct, and add to the story. As well, the story is deceptively simple - a coming of age metaphor about the dangers but wonders one finds when one doesn't follow the directed path in life. But on the other hand, the dense and unusual illustrations make it hard to really follow/get into the story. They are just a bit too odd. And the simplistic story, when taken at face value, can feel almost pointless and unconnected.

What I read was a metaphor for the life the children will lead. Youth when their words and thoughts aren't heeded by adults (and stolen by the 'pet bees'), teenage years when appearances of the foppish lions attest to the obsession with facades, the drudge of adulthood and working a metaphor of sardines in tin cans (or fish in the subway), and then finally the freedom but dangers of old age, when shysters will take advantage and time chase them unto death. But also, there is the tender sadness of the older sister coming of age and leaving her younger brother behind - and his ability to fall asleep easily on that thought attesting to that not being such a bad thing after all.

As well, the illustrations have an ambiguity about them. The backgrounds are rich, detailed, and lush. Contrast that with the very oversimplified figures of the brother and sister - their faces so minimal as to be almost popeye cartoonish amidst all the incredibly detailed space around them. Simple white sheath nightdresses help them stand out and almost be the focal point - but can also detract in that it keeps us from getting any personality out of them (and perhaps that's the point). But again, it distances the reader from the characters.

I read this with my 10 year old and she enjoyed the drawings but was rather flummoxed by the story - or lack thereof since she doesn't have the experience to understand the depth and layering. Nor had she the patience for my discussions of it. But it did get her thinking when we discussed it afterwards - definitely quite different from her Winx or Batman comics.

Such is life - in the book and my attempt at writing a review of The Secret of the Stone Frog.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 17, 2012
This short graphic novel, written and illustrated by newcomer David Nytra is a stunner. Nytra's black and white art, reminiscent of Winsor McKay's "Little Nemo" comic strip from the early 20th century is incredibly detailed and full of surprises. The story starts off and ends in a child's bed but whether what happens in between is a dream or not is left for the reader to decide. When two young children, Leah and Alan awaken in the middle of a forest, they are told by a talking stone frog how to get home. But their mysterious guide also gives them a warning: "Stay on the path!" Anyone who is familiar with the lore of fairyland knows that strange things can happen to those who stray from the path. It's not a spoiler to tell you that it doesn't take long for Leah and Alan to be tempted off the path, and yes, very strange things do begin to happen. They meet giant, fuzzy bees who steal words, a trio of foppish lions, giant rabbits, and some bizarre denizens of the deep sea, who ride a subway dressed in suits and top hats. Besides the aforementioned "Little Nemo," the book's surreal episodes also have the feel of Lewis Carrol's "Alice in Wonderland." This is a book I think kids will want to read over and over again. The fantastic illustrations by themselves are enough to keep readers coming back for repeat viewings. I loved this book!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon June 27, 2016
Leah and Alan are your typical brother and sister. One day, however, they awake in their beds to find that they have been transported to the middle of a forest. Not wanting to be lost in this unknown forest forever, they begin to look for a way home. That is when they encounter a stone frog (hence the title of the book The Secret of the Stone Frog) who sets them on a path home. In typical child fashion, they don't stay on the path for long, because Alan is hungry. The first place they stop is a castle with a very large-headed woman. The lady has bees as pets that eat words to prevent you from speaking, so they must escape her and her bees. With Alan still being hungry, they wander to a different area with an orchard full of giant candied cherries. The owners of the orchards were proper talking lions, who were helpful in getting them part of the way home by riding on giant rabbits. They eventually get home, but not before more dangerous, adventures.

In Windmill Dragons, Leah and Alan are sitting in the woods at their house. Leah is reading a book and Alan sees some pictures inside the book that interests him. He asks Leah to read to him, and that is where the adventure begins. Leah and Alan are transported to a land where there is magic and they are knights. The magic, unfortunately, has stirred up the windmills and turned them into dragons. On their quest to defeat these dragons and restore order to this world, they must encounter a troll, save an aged knight, and face many other obstacles. I normally try not to spoil books like this, but if you've read the first book, then you know that they are able to defeat the dragons and return to their own home.

The illustration style in these books can be described as pen and ink. It is not colored, but it is highly detailed and makes the pages and the story come to life. The stories themselves clearly draw from popular literature, which is most obvious in the second story taking inspiration from Don Quixote. There are several things I liked about these books, including the close bond of Leah and Alan and the way the author/artist captures the power of dreams and imagination. Dreams and imagination are two powerful entities when you are a child, and while we might forget that as we grow older, to children they are just as real, if not more real than the actual world we occupy. The only complaint I have is that the books are two different sizes. The Secret of the Stone Frog is approximately a 6" x 9" book, but the Windmill Dragons is approximately a 7" x 10" book, and this creates an incompatible look on your shelf when the books are placed next to each other. If you can get over this gripe, then you should really check out these fanciful graphic novels!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 6, 2014
I was browsing through the graphic novels at my library and saw this little book. It was a very cute read. The story reminded me a bit of some children’s Japanese films I’ve seen (for example Spirited Away). I enjoyed the story and the illustration. It’s appropriate for all ages.

Leah and Alan wake up in an enchanted forest. They have no idea how to get home until a Stone Frog tells them that the path home is behind him. From there Leah and Alan go on a series of adventures on their way through strange lands. Will they ever make it home?

This is a well done fantasy graphic novel for children. The story is fairly simple as is the illustration of the characters. However, the backgrounds are incredibly detailed and beautifully drawn. This was a fun and quick read and I enjoyed it.

This book feels like a classic and in a way a it is reminiscent of one. You basically have two kids who are whisked away to an enchanted land and they have to struggle through a series of trials to make their way home. However, the book is unique because of the illustration and because it has a very Japanese feel to it. There are giant toads, people with huge heads, and structures that turn into animals...the whole thing reminded me a lot of a Hayao Miyazaki movie.

The illustration is absolutely stunning. Leah and Alan are illustrated in a way that is simple, yet conveys their actions and emotions well. The background and lands they travel through are incredibly intricate and just stunning. Everything is in black and white and that fits the story really well.

This is another graphic novel that I think kids and adults will both enjoy. The story is very short and straight-forward so adults will breeze through this quickly. However, the wonder and inventiveness of the surroundings will appeal to everyone.

Overall an excellent graphic novel for all ages. I enjoyed the story and the crazy lands these kids journey through. I loved the way the graphic novel was illustrated. The story is very short and simple, but I think adults will enjoy it anyway Definitely recommended to fans of fantasy graphic novels.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 2, 2013
Reason for Reading: We were very excited about Toon Book's first full length graphic novel. Ds read aloud to me as his reader.

A wonderful, whimsical fantasy that ds and I both enjoyed tremendously. The illustrations are gorgeous and have an old-fashioned feel to them. The story, together with the illustrations, presents a fantastical tale that reminds one of "Alice in Wonderland" with its nonsensical and surreal elements. My son was fascinated with the story mostly, sometimes skipping over wordless panels. I'd have to make him go back and look at the pictures to see that they told a story too, that the words were not always referring to, as is with graphic novels. He just loved the ending which kept you wondering whether it was real or a dream, as he had determined it was all a dream close to the end. Myself, I was taken with the artwork which is exquisite and intricate. The fantastical is pure enjoyment and one never knows what will appear on the next page. My favourite, I think, is the scene of the buildings come to life. A caveat though, I do think that some people, perhaps those enjoying the Toon Books as early readers and not exactly fans of graphic novels and the fantasy genre itself, may not like this book as it is an extreme in the absurd. However, we were delighted! This one is a keeper for our shelves!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 22, 2012
'The Stone Frog' is interesting as far as it goes and the pictures are very accessible. I like words, and I felt like I hadn't gotten very much story by the time I finished the book. For those more into graphic books, I imagine this would be more of a treat.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 29, 2013
Very empty "storyline". Over attempt at weirdness. The imagry is interesting and gives the impression that this graphic story will be a joy to read. I consider it an overall failure and disappointment.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 30, 2012
Finally had time to stop by my local comic book shop and pick up my latest haul. Amongst them was the latest Toon Book, 'The Secret of the Stone Frog' which is brilliant. Unusual for the publisher it is a 80 page b/w graphic narrative. The book is filled with exquisite pen and ink renderings and easy to follow storytelling by writer/artist David Nytra's whose work echos many older turn-of-the-last-century artists (Little Nemo chief among them) but it is emphatically all his own. The story of a young girl and her even younger brother wandering through a dark dreamy landscape peopled by odd anthropomorphic characters is a complete delight. Go out and pick up a copy, you wont be disappointed!
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse