Today is Day 17 of Picture Book Month, and today I'm thinking about time. As most parents do, we are constantly looking back on the years and months gone by since Sprout joined our family, and wondering where it all went. It seems like just an eyeblink since this little boy was only a whisper, and then a picture, and then a chubby pair of hands clinging fiercely to mine as we boarded an airplane to his new home. And now he is 3 1/2, a "big boy" preschooler with his own set of friends and experiences that make up his day, both with and without us.
It makes me smile, and yet it's a little sad too -- I'm sure you can relate.
Change is inevitable as time passes, and that's something that's as tough for little ones to grasp as it is for us as parents. We look at pictures together and Sprout cocks his head, amused by the sight of himself not walking but crawling, buckled into his high chair and smacking a spoon on his tray. "What happened to the baby me?" he asked me the other night. "You got bigger," I told him, and as he snuggled into my lap for a story, I thought how much bigger still he will eventually be. All the more reason to savor each moment.
Lots of picture books speak to the passage of time, and there are as many takes on this subject as there are authors to write about it. One that captures the particular poignancy of love and friendship, and loss, is City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems. Most of us know Willems for his hilarious titles starring crazy characters like Pigeon, or Elephant and Piggie. But in this outing, Willems shows his true range as an author, bringing us an introspective story of two friends and the changes that come in their relationship. City Dog and Country Frog meet in Spring, play in Summer, reminisce together in Fall. And then in Winter, things are different for the pair - but Spring, as it always does, comes again, and with it friendship sparks anew.
Jon Muth is the artist responsible for this title's outstanding watercolor illustrations. Honestly, as in so many books, I can't imagine more perfect pictures to bring alive the message of this simple story. Muth portrays the friendship between City Dog and Country Frog, in all its phases -- first acquaintanceship, then playmates, then companions -- and in each set of illustrations the qualities of light and color mirror the relationship's progression. As with Willems's text, the pictures are wistful and yet hopeful, just as we all are when looking back at time gone by.
Sprout's as taken with this heartfelt book as his parents are, and it's given us plenty of opportunity to talk about the way things change, over time. You won't soon forget City Dog or Country Frog. Share this with your little ones and with older ones too -- it'll make you want to hold everyone just a little closer, in this moment.
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, published by Hyperion Books for Children