Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Frog in Love

Frog in Love by Max Velthuijs is the story of Frog, who has felt strange all week, and is trying to figure out what is wrong. He feels like crying and laughing at the same time, and that "there's something going thump-thump" inside him. When he tells Hare about how he is feeling, Hare tells him that he is in love.

Frog is very excited to learn that he is in love, and tells Piglet, who asks him, "Who are you in love with?" Frog hadn't thought about that question, but quickly he responds that he is in love with a "pretty, nice, lovely white duck." Piglet tells Frog that a frog can't be in love with a duck, but Frog ignores him. Frog begins anonymously leaving gifts for Duck, but he can't bring himself to speak to her. He decides to impress her by breaking the world high jump record, but it is when he falls and injures himself that Duck comes into his life.

How do you know what you are feeling inside? Can you feel like "crying and laughing at the same time?" If so, how can that be? Can you love someone you don't know? Do two people have to be alike to love each other? Do we love people because of their accomplishments? What makes us love another person?

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Arnold Lobel is probably my favorite children's book author, and a master at generating philosophically suggestive narratives. The Frog and Toad books, in particular, are full of stories that raise many puzzles about life and experience.

One of my favorites is the story "Shivers," in Days With Frog and Toad. Frog tells Toad a ghost story and Toad interrupts several times to ask things like, "Are you making this up?" and "Is this a true story?"At the end of Frog's story, Frog and Toad are scared and are "having the shivers," which, Lobel writes, "was a good, warm feeling."

Can being scared be a "good, warm feeling?" Why do people like scary stories and films? Is it fun to be scared? When we feel scared, say,  listening to a story or watching a film, are we really scared? (We don't call the police or scream for help.) Are we just enjoying the idea of being scared? What is it we experience when we read scary books or watch horror movies?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Pair of Red Clogs

A Pair of Red Clogs is Masako Matsuno's first book for children, written in 1960. A grandmother, looking for a box to send a new pair of clogs to her granddaughter, finds an old pair of cracked red wooden clogs in her storeroom.

The grandmother remembers how excited she was when, as a child the age her granddaughter is now, her mother bought her a brand new pair of red clogs. Soon after, the clogs had a crack in them as a result of a game she played. She wanted a new pair and decided to make the old pair so dirty that her mother would want to buy her another pair. As she shuffled the clogs through the mud, she began thinking about how this was really telling a lie.

The story examines the little girl's feelings of shame and regret at having tried to trick her mother. Should she tell her mother she had done so? Is lying wrong? Is it always wrong? Why did she keep the shoes for so many years? Did what she did change her relationship with her family? Can we still trust someone if they have once lied to us?