“They sat there, feeling happy together.”
Easy Readers, with their short words and small plots, don’t usually fall into the ranks of great literature. Yet Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad” series- Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Days with Frog and Toad, and Frog and Toad All Year – are an enduring and timeless tales all children should encounter.
The short stories are a great mix of silliness and real-life frustrations and drama. They are centered around two friends- Frog and Toad. Toad is the melancholic, dramatic, anxious type, while Frog is always hopeful, happy, and sagunine. Their days are filled with routine, everyday experiences, including misunderstandings, sickness, lost buttons, frustrations, and silly fun. In short, much like our experiences of friendships and family life.
Instead of a moralizing tale, children can see how Frog and Toad’s simple friendship mimics their own life experiences.
Frog, always hopeful, encourages Toad to get out of bed to see the beautiful spring weather- even tricking him into waking up so as to not miss out on the joy of life. Toad, for his part, tries hard to be thoughtful, fetching ice cream or planning the perfect Christmas Eve for Frog, even if he bungles the whole thing and lets his imagination run away with him.
Yet, each in his own way, they exhibit selflessness and helpfulness to each other. They resolve misunderstands and learn to forgive. Who hasn’t had friends or days like these? Even the youngest children can attest to feeling the big emotions expressed in Lobel’s books.
I’ve often thought that the first temperament test could easily be based on Frog and Toad, and maybe one day I will create one of those annoying a buzzfeed quizzes to reveal your % of Toad-to-Frog attributes. But children, without saying the words, can easily identify who they are more like, and how to overcome the defaults their personality may come with. All introverts can attest to the truthfulness of Frog’s behavior in “Alone” and all those with sweet-toothes keenly understand Toad’s frustration in “Cookies.”
Of course, children aren’t *actually* thinking about all this on such a deep level during real aloud time, but kids take much more to heart than we give them credit for. By introducing these stories to our children, we can provide them a window into the joy and goodness of true friendship.