The ditches that ran beside, and bisected the fields behind my childhood house were absolutely full of frogs, and I don’t think there is a more wonderful sound than hearing the first chorus of frog song of the spring. It’s one of the things I miss most, now that I live in the city.
One of my favourite memories is of my dad taking me out ‘frog hunting’ on warm, late spring nights when I was about 4 or 5. Outfitted in rubber boots and armed with a flashlight and my handmade net, we’d walk to the very back of our field, and then out into the overgrown fairgrounds beyond, lured by the chorus of frogs. We’d sneak up to a ditch or pond, trying to escape the frogs’ notice – and if they did hear us and go silent, we’d wait, and wait, not moving, hardly breathing until the first, brave tentative ‘ribbit’ set off the chorus again. Then we’d shine the flashlight into the water and try to catch a glimpse of them before they disappeared under water. I never caught anything, but that really wasn’t the point. Those were exciting, magical evenings for a little girl, out in the dark, way past her bedtime, in a landscape breathing with new life, and surrounded by the heralds of spring.
Gennady Spirin is one of my favourite illustrators. I love, love, love the detail and colour, and minerally paint texture in his washes, and the lovely over-drawing. His artwork makes me want to simultaneously give up, and keep trying harder. His newest book is called Frog Song, so I have two really great reasons to go out and purchase a copy – two copies, actually. One for me, and one for a little girl I know who loves animals and science and is now about the same age I was when my dad used to take me out searching for frogs.
How gorgeous is this detail?
I found out about this book through an article on Seven Impossible Things, which is accompanied by some beautiful page spreads (click them for gorgeous, large versions).
Much has changed since my childhood. The frog-full abandoned fairgrounds, once a place of overgrown thickets of wild roses; the hunting grounds of coyotes, fox, barn owls, and red-tail hawks, crisscrossed with duck-weed-green, clay-bottomed ditches; the home of frogs, sticklebacks and water skaters, has been bulldozed, levelled, drained and turned into sports fields.