4 out of 4 stars
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Oh, where to go, where to hide as we plan our escape pell-mell? Why, just past the meadow and through the fog and there it is—Frog Hotel! Susan Bryant drizzles readers with delicate imagery and concerned prose as she details the circumstances around which a pair of young boys find themselves at Frog Hotel. Not entirely different from the “Hotel California,” Bryant’s hotel is a place for its inhabitants to grow, experience, and be free.
Adopted twins, Calverd and Doclad, are living the lives of neglected, mistreated children forced to sleep in a closet under the stairs and fill their bellies with nothing but gruel. Continually searching to escape their cycle of sadness, they acknowledge a whim one afternoon and decide to follow a loudly croaking frog down an unfamiliar path. As the mysterious amphibian begins to glow and hop faster, Calverd and Doclad chase it through a haze and stumble upon a twinkling hotel in the middle of a meadow.
Not willing to question their luck, the twins fall into step with the routines of the establishment and happily complete “chores” to keep the proprietor from turning them out. For the first time since they can remember they have clean clothes, warm meals, and real beds. It seems too good to be true, but their good fortunes continue to mount. If only the lurking “Mystery Man” would leave them alone and stop startling them, they could perhaps be invited to stay forever. . .
I enjoyed most everything about this book. It encompasses the perfect amount of whimsy to entice young readers and enough kind-hearted deeds to make any adult smile. Walls they can walk through, and grounds that change to meet the guests’ needs highlight the fantasy of the hotel’s magic. It’s charming that the list of “rules” the boys must abide by is no more than an instruction guide to appreciating their new privileges. For example, one mandate is that they “get strong” by eating at least three hearty meals a day and enjoying no less than two snacks.
This book is undoubtedly meant for the big-kid to pre-teen audience that loves adventure. The print is large, and the illustrator (Marty Petersen) included creative pictures at the beginning of each chapter to set the scene. The depictions of the hotel and numerous frogs captured my imagination with their fanciful flourishes and details, but I was slightly disappointed with the portrayal of the twins. In the artwork, they are presented as somewhat otherworldly; they have elongated necks, oval-shaped heads, and sunken chins. If there were a downfall to this delightful story, that would be it.
Following Bryant down her “weird-wonderful” rabbit hole proves that she knows the heart of a child and appreciates finding inspiration in the mundane. Well-edited, beautifully illustrated, and overall smile-inducing, Frog Hotel receives 4 out of 4 stars from me. Following two boys who’ve never been hugged before just might plant seeds of thankfulness in the children lucky enough to read this book for themselves.
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