The Old Bullfrog
Berniece Freschet ~ Roger Duvoisin
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1968
Though my son is a bird lover, he has watched enough of Attenborough's BBC series The Life of Birds (millions and millions of hours, in fact) to know that the circle of life can sometimes be harsh... that frogs eat flies and birds often eat frogs and frogs sometimes even eat birds (ugh!) and the world turns and the sun rises and all that. So despite the heron as bad guy in the story, he knows it's just the way the cookie crumbles in nature. Freschet's tale is a playfully waterlogged twist on the theme of cat and mouse, beginning with an old bullfrog, half asleep on a rock, oblivious of the deadly fate about to befall him....
But the old bullfrog did not see the heron who walked slowly along the edge of the pond. The heron was hungry. He was looking for something to eat. He especially liked to eat frogs. He moved very slowly , and very carefully. First he lifted one long leg and held it still. Then, slowly, he put it down. He lifted his other long leg. And very slowly he put it down. He moved so slowly and so carefully that to know that he was moving at all, one had to be looking right at him.
If you've ever seen a heron stalking a fish, you know how perfect the imagery is here and the way the anticipation builds and builds until finally the bird makes his move and....
Well, you can guess the rest. As always, Duvoisin's paintings/paper cutouts are near perfect. To my son's delight on first read, the heron is joined by a red-winged black bird, a woodpecker, a crow, a blue jay and an owl before the story ends. Anytime there's a bird (or two) involved, it always makes it a hundred times better.
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