Prather’s Pick: Writing a story together

Diane Prather

This week’s picture book is intended for ages 4 and up, and it’s one of the cutest books that I’ve seen in sometime. “By Mouse & Frog” is the story of two very different characters — one mammal and the other an amphibian — who write a story together.

The book was written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman. The charming illustrations were done in pencil, pastel, watercolor, and gouache, and assembled in Photoshop. This is a Viking Book, published by Penguin Young Readers Group, 2015.

The book begins early one morning when Mouse decides to write a story. He takes a brown pencil from a container of colored pencils and draws a table. He “sets” the table with a teapot, a cup, and a spoon, and puts a flower in the center for decoration.

“Once upon a time,” he writes, “ in a quiet little home, Mouse woke up early and set the table…”

But before Mouse can finish the sentence, Frog leaps right into the scene and finishes the sentence: “for F-r-r-o-o-g-g!”

Frog’s leaping causes the teapot to tip over, spilling tea on the floor. (The table and dishes are done as a drawing, but the tea is an orangish color.)

Mouse tells Frog that he’s busy writing a story and repeats what he’s got so far: “Once upon a time, in a quiet little home, Mouse woke up early and set the table…”

Frog finishes Mouse’s sentence: “for Frog.”

Mouse corrects him; “for tea.”

While Mouse uses a bucket and mop to clean up the spilled tea, Frog draws a cake on the table. He adds other things to Mouse’s story, too, such as a king, dragon, and some ice cream. He adds his own storyline, too.

Poor Mouse just goes under the table and covers his eyes.

Frog takes a big breath and rattles off a long story that includes a comb and brush, a bowl of chicken noodle soup, stinky cheese, bump-bump and tumble, kuplink and kuplank, frankooberry mush, and (oh, boy) a whole lot more!

Finally, Mouse yells, “Stop!” The rambunctious frog has clearly taken over. The story is a mess.

What is Mouse to do?

This delightful picture book is full of imaginative fun, and there’s a message about working together, too. What a delightful conversation a parent or teacher might have with kids after the reading of this book — about the advantages of asking others before jumping right in and taking over and sharing ideas. Better yet, two or more kids might join up to write a story.

Author/illustrator Deborah Freedman has a wonderful sense of humor that shines throughout the book. On the ending pages, Frog wonders, “Who is Deborah Freedman?” and Mouse says that he has no idea. He’s up on a ladder, adding “By Mouse and Frog” to the copyright credit.

“By Mouse &Frog” can be found in the children’s room in the children’s room at the Craig Moffat County Library. It can also be purchased, in hardcover, for $16.99.

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