Monday, 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.