We Are Not Frogs is a lively, counting based story by Michael Morpurgo with wonderful illustrations by artist Sam Usher. It is published by the Barrington Stoke imprint, Picture Squirrels, and was sent to me in exchange for my honest review.
As you would expect, the production values are high and the font is dyslexia friendly.
Long term readers will know that I struggle with Michael Morpurgo’s stories. I realise that I am in a minority here, but I cannot say that this book has changed my mind at all. What I found most odd about this story is that it really has very little structure. The frogs and toads are out in the garden. The frogs invite the toads to have a pumping race. The toads are not very good at jumping, and when the children, Jago and Alice come to play in the garden, the toads are not able to make a getaway like the frogs.
They get picked up by the children who think the are frogs. The toads correct them, and then the children catch the frogs instead.
There is a lot going on in the story. You keep thinking; ‘is this the point of the story?’ and ‘is this the point of the story?’ and you realise it is just, like others of Morpurgo’s stories, a kind of narrative snapshot of some things that happen, with added nature notes.
The best thing about this story, frankly, is that none of the animals die, which is something that happens alarmingly often in Morpurgo’s books.
The counting element comes in after several pages as a kind of afterthought on the illustrated pages. The Can You Count section is in a small, target shaped ring on the bottom edge of each illustrated page.
The best thing about the story by far, are the fantastic illustrations by Usher. At times they are very Quentin Blake like. They have the same, exuberant, alive quality that the best of Blake’s work has. I particularly like the page that shows Mutt the dog shaking the box of frogs. It’s full of life and I love the way that you get a real sense of motion from the picture. It’s particularly apt given how busy the frogs and insects on the pages are. The colours are lush. The end papers are beautifully hoppy with frogs and it is a really lovely thing to look at.
This will make a great picture book to share with children aged 3-5. It would work well in an Early Years/Nursery environment if you’re looking at spring topics and/or counting books.