Betsy and Tacy, Peter and Fudge, Tom and Huck, Beezus and Ramona, George and Martha, Henry and Mudge, Katniss and Peeta, Elephant and Piggie. But if you grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, chances are one particular pairing comes to mind when you consider children's literature. I'm speaking, of course, of the inimitable Frog and Toad.
Quick story: a few months back, Sprout and I were visiting a large chain bookstore and he came across a larger-than-life cutout of Frog. He was thrilled, naturally -- who wouldn't be? But then he immediately started looking for Toad, who was conspicuously absent. "Where Toad?" he asked the bookseller, completely puzzled. "Frog and Toad is friends!".
In Sprout's mind, Frog and Toad are inseparable, a duo whose presence in one another's life makes the story. And I would tend to agree with him. This is a classic pair, the staple of many an early reader's first experiences with chapter books. Arnold Lobel introduced the two friends in 1970's Frog and Toad are Friends, which won a Caldecott Honor. (Lobel went on to win a Caldecott for Fables in 1981.) The other entries in the series include Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad; each title contains several stories that reveal the depth of the two friends' affection for one another. Some sources quote Lobel as stating that Frog and Toad were two parts of himself. Whether or not that is true, it's obvious that the stories are personal and rendered with love by their creator.
Sprout's favorite entry in the series at the moment is 1972's Newbery Honor title Frog and Toad Together. In this volume, the two experience a number of highs and lows, from the thrill of a garden growing at last to the uncertainty of what to do when Toad's list of daily activities is lost. In each episode, the friends' individual qualities shine through, such as Toad's affinity for the spotlight and Frog's creative problem-solving. We particularly love "Cookies", in which Toad bakes an especially delicious batch of cookies and then the two friends try to figure out how to stop themselves from eating every single one (with hilarious results).
Lobel hits the mark perfectly with every one of Frog and Toad's adventures, wrapping up life lessons in funny and touching tales. The situations may be unusual, but the emotions are familiar to young children. When a bit of peril is introduced (such as the bravery-testing "Dragons and Giants"), the solution is realistic, as the two friends discover that courage may be hard on your own, but is much easier with a buddy. Through it all, Frog and Toad remain devoted companions, always matching one another's strides in order to end up right in sync.
You can't go wrong with any of the Frog and Toad tales - the only challenge comes in reading only one chapter!
Wayback Wednesday Verdict: Timeless!
Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel, published by HarperCollins
Sample: "Toad looked at the sunshine coming through the window. 'Frog,' he said, 'I am so glad that you came over.' / 'I always do,' said Frog."