For Young Readers

Picture Book: 'City Dog, Country Frog,' by Mo Willems and Jon Muth

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG

By Mo Willems

Illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Hyperion. $17.99, ages 4-7

Wistful is not a word usually associated with Mo Willems, creator of the iconic, pushy Pigeon and the push-me/pull-you friendship of Elephant and Piggie. Wacky? Yes. Wickedly funny? Without a doubt. But here, for a story paired with Jon J. Muth's lushly muted watercolors, "wistful" is the only word that suits. Divided into five sections that follow the seasons from spring through "spring again," the plot can be summed up quite simply: City Dog, however fancifully, makes friends with Country Frog; winter comes and Frog disappears; spring (but not Frog) returns with the promise of a new friendship. The understated text is perfectly punctuated by the rhythm of Muth's illustrations: Each season is introduced by a small square vignette, and the right side of each double-page layout is filled with a glowing scene that seems to extend beyond the confines of the page. This hypnotic cadence is interrupted only once, by a perfectly timed double-page illustration, devoid of words, showing Dog sitting alone beside an ice-covered pond, his posture telling us all we need to know. From froggy smile to wagging tail, every inch of "City Dog, Country Frog" evokes canine reality as well as the human emotions we all invest in our four-footed companions. An improbable friendship made simply and beautifully real by an equally improbable pairing of words and art, writer and illustrator.

-- Kristi Jemtegaard


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