Y'know, I'm sort of lukewarm on some of the characters in popular children's literature. Some of them irritate me (Max and Ruby), some of them are boring (too many to count), some of them are set well-meaning but annoyingly bad examples for your children (Curious George), and some of them....well, I just don't get them. (Yes, Madeline, I'm talking about you.)
But Frog and Toad are different. I love Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books. You know: "Frog and Toad are Friends" and "Frog and Together." Do I love them because I remember enjoying the books so much as a child? Do I love them because the stories are short, but not too short, and easy to read without being deadly dull? Do I love them because I just get a big kick out of silly old Toad and his good buddy Frog, who always goes along with his crazy schemes but reins him in when he gets too close to trouble? Yes, yes and yes.
Oh yes, and I love them because they often manage to impart a lesson without resorting to the dreadful Overly Earnest Message approach that so many contemporary kids books do. Please. Kids are not stupid. They know when they're being preached at. Give them a decent story, and if you can also fit in a good message, fine. Please do not insult my or my child's intelligence by sacrificing a good story on the altar of this-is-good-for-you-so-who-gives-a-whoop-about-fun? What child is going to want to read if that's the sort of drivel the book publishers are pushing on them?
I particularly love the story in which Frog gives Toad a hat for his birthday, but the hat turns out to be too big. But Toad doesn't want to hurt Frog's feelings so he wears it anyway, and he falls into holes and trips over tree roots. So unbeknownst to Toad, Frog sneaks into Toad's house to retrieve the hat, finds a way to shrink it, then returns it to his friend. And Toad wears his better-fitting hat with joy. Isn't that a wonderful examples of two friends looking out for each other?
By the way, we still need "Frog and Toad All Year," in case anyone runs across a copy...