By Mouse and Frog

illus. by Deborah Freedman. 40p. Viking. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670784905; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698144958. LC 2014003078.
PreS-K—Freedman ventures into the realm of metafiction once again with this whimsical friendship tale. Pencil in paw, Mouse starts to create a quiet story about having tea, its gray line drawings becoming "real" à la Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon. To Mouse's great consternation, enthusiastic Frog jumps in to help with colorful ideas of its own. Soon, the orderly tea party is overrun by melting ice cream, a king, and even a dragon. Frog's suggestions reach a crescendo in an entire page of amalgamated quotes from children's classics "May I bring a friend? Can I drive the bus? I think I can—I think I can," causing the exasperated Mouse to shout "Stop!" and send all the drawing elements exploding all over the page. Two friends then work out a compromise, jointly creating a vibrant magical garden laid out across a spread. Freedman's delicate watercolor, gouache, pastel, and pencil illustrations delight with gentle humor, such as Frog and Mouse wondering, just "Who is Deborah Freedman?" They are, however, oddly out of sync with the story, as when the text says that Mouse is writing the story but the illustrations consistently show Mouse and Frog drawing. David Wiesner's Art and Max (Clarion, 2010) and Susanna Gretz's Riley and Rose in the Picture (Candlewick, 2005) explore the intersection of friendship, art, and breaking the fourth wall with more finesse, but with its timeless message about the importance of sharing and collaboration, this title will be welcome in most larger collections where such books are in demand.—Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY
Mouse and Frog have very different ideas about how to collaborate on a story. Though they bicker throughout, they find ways to compromise and come up with ideas that appeal to both of them. The playful meta illustrations show Mouse and Frog illustrating their story. Changes in font are used to indicate storytelling versus reality, but the narrative is still occasionally confusing.

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