cover image The Secret of the Stone Frog

The Secret of the Stone Frog

David Nytra. Candlewick/Toon, $14.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-935179-18-4

A young brother and sister in their nightclothes (Alan and Leah) awake without explanation in a magical land of illogic and misrule from which they must struggle to find their way home. Is this another artist drinking from the well of Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie? Two factors keep Nytra’s book from falling into this seen-it trap of calculated whimsy and immaturity-by-choice. First, the intricate flowerings and soulfully etched forest backgrounds of the art make the black-and-white pages sing as though they were drawn in a rainbow of colors. Second, the unhurried and delicately paced narrative, which proceeds from the moment Alan and Leah awake in a storybook forest of wonder and terror and are directed in the first stage of their journey by a large talking stone toad. After that, their catalogue of amazement ranges from giant pet bees with the ability to steal one’s words to a grouping of fey, upright, talking lions in the gear and demeanor of Versailles-ready dandies. To stick the landing, Nytra’s serene ending manages to be worthy of its glorious beginning. His cavalcade of dreamscapes is a rich and beguiling experience that deserves multiple immersions. Ages 8–up. (Sept.)