Kid Lit Reviews is pleased to welcome Frog and his father. Frog is the star in Dev Petty’s debut picture book, I Don’t Want to be a Frog! from Doubleday Books for Young Readers and artist Mike Boldt. Frog doesn’t like being a frog. He’s rather be a cat, or an owl, or even a pig. Dad just wants Frog to be himself and accept who he is: Frog. But Dad has his own little secret. If I’m not wrong, KLR is the only place you can find out what Dad’s little secret is all about. First, let’s welcome Frog. He stars in his first trailer as well as his first book.
Hi Frog. Welcome to Kid Lit. You have a book out called I Don’t Want to be a Frog! I love your story, but I am curious, why do you want to be a cat?
“Yes, more than anything I’d like to be a cat. Cats have this irreverent thing about them, they make the rules, they’re in charge. Cat says he even has this awesome red dot he chases around. Who doesn’t want a red dot? One minute they’re happy and purring and the next it’s stinkeye city and they’re walking away. Geniuses.”
You also think about being a rabbit instead of a frog. Why a rabbit?
“Ah…yes….about that. If you don’t mind keeping this between us, I didn’t really want to be a rabbit all that much. Cat, pig, owl…sure, but not really a rabbit. But we’ve been friends a while and I didn’t want to exclude him. Besides, he was feeling a little self-conscious about those long ears of his that day and he needed a little pick me up.”
You are such a good friend. Your dad keeps telling you, “You can’t be a . . . (cat, rabbit, pig)” Why is dad so against you being a different animal?
“I’m sure he’s going to tell you something about how I’m a frog and I should get with that. But really he doesn’t want me to be a different animal because he doesn’t want me making the same mistakes he did.
“When he was young, he spent a year solid wanting to be a squirrel. He wore a pretend tail and everything…for a YEAR…so embarrassing. He doesn’t want me being disappointed. You know, I wonder where that tail is…excuse me, I gotta go look for that tail, squirrels are pretty rad.”
A squirrel? I can’t picture Dad as a squirrel, an owl, maybe. They are such wise animals. Dad, you were thrilled with the idea of becoming an owl. You even said, “Being an Owl is the greatest thing ever.” Help me understand why Frog cannot be an Owl, if owls are such great creatures.
“Apparently it bears some repeating. Frog cannot be an owl, or really any other animal, because he is a frog. Kids used to just ask to stay up late or watch more TV or eat candy and so on. But it’s somewhat of a slippery slope, you know—real delusions of grandeur kind of stuff and suddenly they want to change species or be a whole different animal!
“I want to be a lion.”
“I want to be an eagle.”
“I want to be one of those humans who drive fast cars and have credit cards.”
“When is it enough? With that said, if there is any animal I’d love for frog to be, it would be an owl. Wise, majestic, stars of those Tootsie Pop commercials…what’s not to like? Heck I’d like to be an owl myself.”
Frog, you complain about a few things, one of which is your food. Is frog food really horrible?
“Frogs eat bugs. You heard me…bugs. Like with legs and antennas and everything. You think potatoes with eyes are bad? Try eating something with three or four hundred eyes, all staring at you. It’s a texture thing really. Sometimes I say, “Look Dad, can we, JUST ONCE, have some string cheese or Cheddar Bunnies?” and my dad says, “Those are just empty calories, son. Eat your thoraxes.” There’s no arguing with the man.”
Yeah, thoraxes don’t sound appetizing. What are “cheddar bunnies?”
“Magical carboyhdrate crackers shaped like mammals.”
If child wants to be a cat or a pig, Frog what would you say?
“Go with the pig. Those guys are wicked smart.”
Frog, you’ve thought a lot about becoming a different animal. What advice would you give a child who wants to be, say, a pig?
“I’d say son….or daughter…I don’t want to shock you here, but you’re a frog.” I think I’d also remind them that being a cat or a pig isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, between you and me- cats aren’t that bright. You can scratch them in one place and their backside will go right in the air…totally out of their control, it’s madness. So I think I’d advise my child to go with the pig idea. Even though they’re a frog. Unless they aren’t a frog, in which case I’m sorry.”
What? wait, I thought you liked cats. You said more than anything you want to be a cat, because cats are in charge; you said we are geniuses.
“Well isn’t that the thing with cats? One minute, good….the next bad. You never know where you stand with them. Have you seen me do this thing with my throat?”
Your throat . . . are you changing the subject? Okay, I’ll bite. What do you do with your throat?
“I could show you, but I’d have to….oh wait, this is about a kids book. Sure, my throat puffs up and makes a big balloon.”
Frog, is there anything great about being a frog?
“What I’ve learned is that the only really good thing about being a frog is not being eaten by wolves and also not being a badger. Beyond that, there aren’t a lot of perks. But, what with not being eaten by wolves and everything, being a frog is alright…I guess.”
Dad, you want Frog to stay a frog. What do you say is so great about being a frog?
“Dad here…the best thing about being a frog is having an amazing frog child like this one. The other 327 eggs turned up real duds. This was the best one, right here.”
“Aw shucks, dad. Thanks.”
What happened to the 327 duds?
“If only I knew.”
Frog, Wolf gave you good dining advice, but he seemed to suddenly appear. Does he do that a lot?
“Well, I think wolf had been lurking around listening the whole time. He’s like that. Sort of a shady fellow if you ask me.”
Have you and Wolf been friends long?
“No, we haven’t been friends long, we might if he’d stop trying to EAT ALL MY FRIENDS. But look, a guy’s gotta survive. That’s the nature of things. In the end, he really helped me figure out it was good to just be me, so I’m grateful. But he’s not like invite-to-my-birthday-party material.”
So no birthday party invite for Wolf. What about the 327 “duds?” Any of those siblings “invite-to-my-birthday-party material?”
“Well, I have about four thousand brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and all that so I’m only allowed a few friends at my birthday parties. I have to make some careful choices and that means inviting friends who
a) don’t eat my other friends or threaten to do so and
b) don’t drool all over the cake and
c) willingly wear party hats.
“Gosh, I don’t know! If they were as handsome and insightful as I, possibly. But what are the odds?”
Slim, very slim. * haha * Okay, Frog, have you ever thought about becoming a badger?
“I don’t think so. Let me put it this way: If a great white shark and a marmot had a baby, you’d have Badger. That guy is always really grumpy. I mean REALLY grumpy. He’s got a cool racing stripe on his head but that’s about the only upside I see.”
How about a wolf?
“Nope. He’s in all these stories where little girls and tiny pigs get the better of him. So embarrassing.”
Wolf really helped you out. Is he your hero?
“My dad’s my hero. If only because he keeps those glasses on even when he’s so slimy and they must just fall down all the time. Wolf’s okay, but he could work on his bedside manner a little.”
Wolf’s bedside manner isn’t the best?
“Well, just look at those teeth! I thought frogs were slimy, but really he drools a lot. A LOT. And all the badger eating and growling and life-lessons.”
Makes sense. What is it like to be the star of a picture book? I bet you have become quite popular in your swamp.
“I can’t lie, it’s pretty awesome. Pig says it’s totally gone to my head but he’s just jealous of my international fame. Did you know they’re translating my book into Slovak? I’m world famous.
“And yes, I’m pretty popular in the swamp. And not just among the young tadpoles and pollywogs screaming my name and throwing flies at me. Frogs that are two, even three months old want my autograph. Crossover power right there.”
Screaming your name. Really? Doesn’t that get confusing, all that name-calling? “Frog! Frog! Frog!”
“Whatever happens in the swamp, stays in the swamp. No can do.”
Okay * haha * Let’s talk about your author, Dev Petty. Any scoops?
“She says she’s really “busy” these days but I don’t buy it. Seems like she mostly just sits outside “writing” but I don’t see a computer or pen or anything.
“I do know she has me featured in another book called I Don’t Want to be Big which will be out with Random House/Doubleday next fall. In it, I’m a secret and handsome, and incredibly intelligent spy who travels the world winning at baccarat and driving Lamborghinis.”
“That’s NOT the plot of the book.”
“Fine. In it, I decide that it would
be great not to grow at all but
then I learn something important,
blah blah blah.”
“Not blah blah blah.”
“OK. I learn getting bigger and
growing up is alright…because
you get to drive Lamborghinis.”
“There’s no Lamborghini.”
“Where’s wolf when I need him? Anyway, she also has a book coming out with Little Brown in 2017 that’s illustrated all in clay and is really super funny. I mean REALLY funny stuff. But I can’t tell you about any of it.”
But you just did. How about a little more. Just a tiny more. Plot? Characters? Cats?
“Hmmmm. Ok. You seem pretty trustworthy. In I Don’t Want to be Big I just don’t want to get bigger and with the advice of my friends I find out that it’s not all bad. I mean, nothing is ALL bad, right? And growing BIG or OLDER doesn’t mean you have to grow up and be all serious, right? RIGHT? I hope so because I have a lot riding on this.”
Hi Dev, so glad you made it. Please give Dev Petty a warm KLR welcome.
“Oh hey! I thought those two would never leave. All day long with the “we’re frogs, we want to be other mammals…” And the arguing!”
Dev, as you know, readers like to know where writers get their ideas. Where did you get the idea for I Don’t Want to be a Frog!?
“Well, I thought about how we’re always asking kids what animal they’d like to be and kids shout out “Shark! Lion! Monkey!” but no one ever raises their hand and says “Frog!”
Seriously, no kid ever raises their hand to be a frog? What about a cat, or a—oh, . . .ah, and that got you thinking . . . ”
“That sort of got me thinking about how we often envy things other people have or are and maybe animals are like that too. Maybe they have things they don’t like about themselves and maybe those things end up being beneficial.
“I think it’s really cool for kids to explore this sort of topic…why are we what we are? And to know it’s ok to think about that or feel like you wish you were different than you are and likewise ok to find things that you DO like about yourself and recognize those.”
I Don’t Want to be a Frog! is your first picture book. What was it like to see your story as a finished book?
“What can I say? It was really, really cool. A big surprise since I hadn’t seen any art in the process. Mike did an extraordinary job and created characters that just pop off the page. I used to work in film so I feel like I already had one amazing career in this life and so really my cup runneth over about getting to be in this career and in this community. I’m in awe of the thoughtful, brave writing that many picture book writers are doing out there. Kids are getting to read books filled with ideas and questions and abstraction. It’s a swell time to be a kidlit writer.”
I agree. The kidlit community is a wonderful place to be right now, especially for writers. Dev, thank you for stopping by and bringing Frog and his dad with you. They were interesting guests. I hope I Don’t Want to be a Frog! hops off bookstore shelves.
The illustrator of I Don’t Want to be a Frog! is Mike Boldt.
If you would like a copy of I Don’t Want to be a Frog—and why would you not—Dev’s debut picture book can be found at your local bookstore or at these online retailers.
All illustrations, except as noted below, are © 2015 by Mike Boldt. Used by permission.
Check Out the Review of I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG HERE!
Frog/Squirrel © jrcftw88’s on http://photoshopcontest.com/
Bulging Throat Frog © http://www.natureworldnews.com/
Cheddar Bunny © Annie’s Cheddar Cheese Bunnies
Badger © Joshua Williams @jwilliamsmrhs
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved