Gem

Gem

Written and Illustrated by Holly Hobbie

Little, Brown and Company, 2012

Dear Hope,

This past winter was the longest, fiercest winter I remember.

The plot in a nutshell: A toad takes a long journey.

A little toad hopes from his home in the dandelions, past the safety of his pond and out to the road, where he’s nearly run over by a car. He makes his way down a country road, has a relationship with a lady toad, is chased by a hawk and finds himself in a lovely garden, where a little girl is playing with her cat. The girl catches the toad and they look at each other for a bit, then the girl puts him down and he hops away. That night, he sits out in the garden under the moon and watches the night bugs.

Author/illustrator Holly Hobbie is an actual person, which I have to admit that I didn’t know until recently. Having grown up with the line of dolls and products based on her namesake character, I never realized it was the creator’s name as well. Ms. Hobbie marketed her classic character to American Greetings and worked with them to develop the rest of the product line. (I had a doll and a box of Holly Hobbie stationery.) She launched the Toot & Puddle books in the 1980’s and expanded to picture books in the late 2000’s. She’s been creating artwork for about 50 years now and it just seems to get more and more beautiful.

I feel like the cat and the toad are having a staring contest.

I feel like the cat and the toad are having a staring contest.

I loved this book, especially the way that the wordless story is framed. It starts with a letter from Ms. Hobbie to her granddaughter, Hope, explaining that she wrote this story during a long winter, remembering when Hope found a frog in the garden and dedicating the book to her. The book concludes with Hope’s response to her grandmother, thanking her for the book and reiterating her commitment to letting wild creatures live in their own environments. Having these letters bookend the artwork makes the story more meaningful and personal. The watercolor and pen and ink artwork is so lovely, capturing lots of beautiful natural scenery and bringing all the colors of spring into its pages. She even includes some extra facts about toads in the back of the book. It’s excellent.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that animals thrive in their own habitats and it’s better to watch them from afar than to keep them for your own.

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