Written by John Langstaff, Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1955
Awards: Caldecott Medal (1956)
Frog went a-courtin’, he did ride
Sword and pistol by his side.
The plot in a nutshell: A frog marries a mouse and events transpire as set down in the old popular song
It’s probably indicative of my age, but when anyone mentions the song that inspired this book, all I can think is ‘Crambone!’ from the 1955 Tom & Jerry cartoon. According to the book’s forward, author John Langstaff notes that this book is a conglomeration of many versions of the original song. The plot couldn’t be simpler. Frog stops by Miss Mouse’s house and proposes to her. All the local animals help prep for the wedding, which is a big event for everyone. Frog and his bride head off to France for their honeymoon. Happy endings all around.
The song’s roots are in Scotland and can be traced back as far as the 16th century, where a nursery rhyme version of it appears in a book called The Complaynt of Scotland and is thought by some to be a political satire. Over the years, it has been altered throughout the generations and has changed into the children’s song (and story) that exists today. Versions of the song have been recorded by diverse artists such as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. (Although the Tom & Jerry version, which was sung by Shug Fisher, is still my favorite.)
The illustrations earned artist Feodor Rojankovsky the Caldecott Medal. One interesting feature of the book’s artwork is that the pictures alternate between full color illustrations and pictures of monochromatic green. Mr. Rojankovsky has said that he was given a set of crayons shortly after a trip to the zoo, and that’s what got him started drawing pictures of animals. There are many different kinds of animals represented in this book and it’s clear that he had a real appreciation for all the different species.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, when passing along stories and songs, it’s the spirit that matters and not exact words.