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  • Where the Board Books Are


Ribbit by Rodrigo Folgueira

If someone wanted to publish their manuscript as a sketch book, this is what it would look like---Messy. From one page to the next the illustrations are not cohesive and mostly illustrate close-ups of either frogs or the pig. And while some of the furry friends within the book might be cute -- on one page in particular the illustrator makes a raccoon's eye so big it looks like a picture right out of Ice Age -- I often find my eyes darting across the pages trying to figure out what I should be looking at (or even what I am looking at).

And then there's the plot: a story of a pig who sits on a rock in the middle of a pond full of frogs saying "Ribbit!" The frogs, confused as to why a pig would be making frog noises trudge off to ask the wise old beetle for advice. But when they arrive back at the pond, there is no pig. The wise old beetle tells the frogs that maybe the only thing the frog wanted was to make new friends. The frogs hadn't thought of that. And sure enough, making new friends is exactly what the pig wanted, as he's now found sitting in a tree saying "Tweet" (illustration below).

Out of the whole book this is perhaps the only illustration that I actually like. The fading sun in the background contrasted with the dark shadowy ground and silhouetted tree reminds me of something I've seen before---a crisp fall day at sundown, or a final day of winter before the leaves on the trees start to appear. Regardless of whether it reminds me of something, it's one of the only cohesively illustrated double-spread pages. Many of the other pages look as though the illustrator needed to put something on the page -- a turtle here, the pig there, a slew of frogs there.

Illustrations by Ploy Bernatene

The final page concludes with all the frogs and furry animals perched on the tree with the pig and the birds all saying "Tweet. Tweet. Tweet." The pig, now surrounded by many new friends.

On the one hand we can say, ok this is a story that encourages children to be welcoming of new friends and to to not reject someone because he or she is different. But on the other hand isn't this book teaching children that to fit in you have to act like the people around you whom you're trying to fit in with? Why couldn't the pig have gone to the pond, sat on the rock, and said "Oink! Oink!"? That would have attracted the frogs attention. It's not every day a pig sits in the middle of a pond full of frogs. But instead, the pig had to act like the frogs to grab their attention.

This book could have been about courage, about the pig bravely introducing himself to a pond full of frogs, about the frogs hesitation towards him and then the friendships that come from the most unexpected places. But that's not what the book is about. A tree full of animals making different sounds, living in harmony with one another as friends is a much stronger life message than a tree full of furred and feathered friends making the same sound. Maybe the wise old beetle should have told them that instead.

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