Readers, I’m going to jump straight to the point: this book gets 6/5 stars from me. It’s the very first review for Kidlit & Caboodle and we’ve already broken the rating system!
I’m not alone in loving this title, either. Betty Carter writing for Horn Book gave Dear Treefrog a starred review, calling it “altogether lovely.” Kirkus‘ review describes it as “a poignant, poetic journey.” Sarah Hunter writing for Booklist also gives a starred review that praises Dear Treefrog for “seamlessly blend[ing] science, poetry, and mindfulness.”
In short, Dear Treefrog is a picture book written by poet Joyce Sidman about the titular creature discovered in a girl’s backyard. Dear Treefrog is also a lushly detailed watercolor wonderland illustrated by Diana Sudyka, who just might be my new favorite artist. It’s a meditation on transitions, loneliness, and making a new home as seen through the eyes of an elementary-aged child who, though never named, is a full character of her own. It’s also a celebration of the sheer magic around us if we’re only willing to pause and meet nature on her own terms. And it’s about ecosystems, mindfulness, social-emotional learning, and empathy building. Honestly, get you a book that can do it all.
Right off the bat I’m wowed by Diana Sudyka’s illustrations. Working with watercolor and gouache, she delivers stylized, bold art that is still detailed enough to effectively identify numerous plant, animal, and fungi species. Sudyka’s art evokes a child-like sense of wonder paired with an adult artist’s trained eye. The best picture books are those where words and art work together to tell a story, and Dear Treefrog absolutely nails that synergy.
Joyce Sidman weaves a story about a young girl exploring her new home after a move. She’s wary of all the changes and discovers there’s already someone living in the garden around her house. Free-verse poetry encourages readers to slow down and notice the details of the girl’s world. She wonders, “Are you new here too?”
I love when picture books offer a simple story and great vocabulary. Dear Treefrog would be an excellent choice for a mixed-ages storytime to keep both the preschool crowd and elementary-aged kiddos engaged. This is further enhanced with a science fact on each two-page spread, which adds to learning about nature without disrupting either the art or the narrative.
It’s rare for me to find a book that hits so many high notes across so many categories. Dear Treefrog could work across different age groups, either for independent reading or as part of a storytime. I imagine it would absolutely shine as a book read with a child one-on-one, so you can both take your time absorbing the images and story. Countless details never become cluttered or overwhelming, meaning that revisiting the story will be an absolute delight.
Dear Treefrog is available from Bookshop, IndieBound, Amazon, and at your local library through WorldCat.
Have you read Dear Treefrog? Have any other similar titles to recommend? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!