Written and Illustrated by Steve Breen
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007
Stick liked to do things on his own…all by himself.
The plot in a nutshell: A young frog takes an unexpected journey all by himself.
Stick is a little frog who wants to be independent enough to do things on his own. When he tries to catch a huge dragonfly with his tongue, he gets caught instead and is lifted into the sky. The dragonfly carries him across the water, into the French Quarter of New Orleans, where he’s dropped onto the nose of a horse. The horse shakes him off and Stick’s tongue latches onto a bunch of balloons, which float him down the street and into the sky. He falls onto a passing car’s windshield, which flicks him away with one swipe of the windshield wiper. Stopping briefly on a motorcyclist, he winds up attached to an airplane, then a seagull, only to find himself all alone on a pier as the sun is setting. He asks a heron for help and the heron takes him back to his mother. As the story ends, he tries again to catch a fly on his tongue. This time it’s a firefly and after he swallows it, his whole body begins to glow.
If you’re a parent, you will certainly recognize Stick. If ‘no’ was one of your child’s first words, then ‘I do it MYSELF!’ was likely one of their first full sentences. Author/illustrator Steve Breen gives Stick’s story a good balance. His adventure is exciting and fun, but it has its share of danger as well, as is the case with many of life’s real adventures. Although much of what happens to Stick during his travels is accidental, I like the way he seems to be going with the flow and letting circumstances carry him where they may. When he makes that realization that he is too far out of his element and needs to ask for help, you can see that he has learned that there’s no shame in needing assistance. And the end of the story provides a chuckle that brings the story to a fun conclusion.
The illustrations, done in watercolor, acrylic paint, colored pencil and Photoshop, beautifully set the story in New Orleans and follow Stick’s travels through different landscapes, from the pond to the city to the open sky. The inside front cover features a map of the area where the story takes place and the same map is featured again inside the back cover, but here the map includes a dotted line showing the route of Stick’s journey, including pictures to let us know where certain events happened. I think that’s a really nice added element.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s very grown-up to do things by yourself and even more grown-up to admit when you need someone’s help.