From the Book Shelf: May 2017

Each month I spotlight two books guaranteed to delight readers and provide fun activities to further extend the meaning of each reading experience. With so many wonderful titles available, this is no easy task! I bring a 33-year teaching career, literacy expertise and a passion for creating joyful readers to every column I write. I certainly hope you enjoy this month’s picks as much as I do.

“It’s not easy being green.” ~ Kermit the Frog

Fabulous Frog Facts:

Frogs are amphibians, which means they have two lives—one part of their life is in the water, and the other part is on land. There are about 5000 species of frogs. They come in many colors, patterns, and sizes, and can be found all over the word (except for Antarctica).

  • Tadpoles, like fish, are hatched with long, finned tails and gills, so they can breathe under water until they are fully developed.
  • The metamorphosis from tadpole to froglet to land-living frog takes about 10 weeks.
  • Frogs absorb water through their skin and their smooth, moist skin can make them slippery to hold.
  • Frogs can see in several directions at the same time and they never close their eyes, even when sleeping.
  • Frogs can breathe through both their skin and their nostrils.
  • Every species of frog makes its own special sound, but only the male frog can grunt and croak.
  • Frogs have long, sticky tongues to quickly catch their prey.


This is a story of a frog with an identity crisis. Petty tells the story as a hilarious, witty conversation between a young frog that no longer wants to be a green, slimy, bug-eating amphibian and his patient, heard-it-all-before dad. With each ridiculous suggestion of who young frog wishes to be—a fuzzy cat, a wise owl, and even a garbage-eating pig, his reassuring dad reminds little frog that he is perfect just the way he is. Little frog isn’t convinced until a hungry wolf—who detests eating frogs—comes along and provides an unexpected twist. Little frog realizes being a frog is pretty great after all! Bold comic illustrations accompany a powerful message of self-acceptance.


Caldecott Honor-winning duo, Jenkins (born in Hickory, NC) and wife, Page, have created a fantastic look into the unexpected ways animals move. Flying frogs and waddling red-lipped batfish are just two of the fascinating creatures readers will meet. Each section features a host of intriguing animals getting around in their own way—climbing, walking, swimming, flying, rolling, leaping, and jetting. The magnificent, torn-paper collage illustrations and detailed, well-researched information about unusual animal locomotion is a powerful combination, sure to delight!

Extension Activities:

Math and Physical Fitness:

Saturday, May 13th, 2017 is National Frog Jumping Day. This unofficial holiday is based on the story Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog, written by Mark Twain in 1865 about Jim, his pet frog, and a friendly competition. Currently, a frog named “Rosie the Ribeter”* holds the national record for jumping 21 feet 5-3/4 inches. Powerful hind legs enable frogs to jump 20 times their body length. For this activity, take at least 25 feet of rope and mark it at 5-feet intervals. Place a sign on one side of the rope at each of the following points.

  • Bullfrog: 7 feet
  • Leopard Frog: 5 feet
  • South African Sharp-Nosed Frog: 11 feet

Stand at the beginning of the rope and jump as far as you can. Place a sign on the opposite side of the rope where you land. Compare your distance to that of each frog species. See if you can beat Rosie the Ribeter’s record!

Creative Writing:

Think about all of the amazing animals in the world and create your own unique creature by using parts from the animals you like best. For example, wings to fly, 100 pairs of legs to run fast, a pouch to hold a bedtime snack, and skin that changes color to blend in wherever it goes. Once you decide on the animal parts, think about the ways they can move and various uses for the parts, and then write a marvelous adventure featuring your special creature. Be sure to give your animal a name! Share your story with a friend or family member.


The beautiful illustrations in Flying Frogs and Walking Fish are collages made from torn pieces of colorful papers. The clever use of the placement of torn paper pieces gives the animals a detailed, realistic appearance. For example, a strip of green paper is used to suggest the water line on the page where the elephant is swimming partially underwater. Follow Jenkins’ process and create your own masterpiece:

1) sketch your idea on paper—this becomes your collage template;

2) select paper style/colors—e.g., construction paper, wrapping paper, etc.;

3) tear/cut different colors of paper into a variety of sizes;

4) glue torn/cut pieces of paper to fill in your collage template.

“Time’s fun when you’re havin’ flies.” ~ Kermit the Frog 

  • For younger readers, this is a pun on the name “Rosie the Riveter,” the symbol for women working in factories during World War II.