Opposites. That’s what comes to mind when I think about City Dog, Country Frog. But all the good things about opposites. Even though some pairings may seem odd, a dog and a frog for example, it’s what they bring together that makes their relationship so special. If you hadn’t seen the book, you might think that Mo Willems and Jon J. Muth would be an odd pairing. Mo’s books are always over the top funny with silly illustrations and Jon J. Muth’s books tend to be a little bit more serious and big picture with gorgeous watercolor paintings. And yet the result of their collaboration is a true work of art.
While I was sitting down to write this review, I was just thinking about how it is such a departure from some of Mo Willems other books. On second thought, it fits right in, because although his style tends toward the ridiculous, there is almost always a life lesson thrown in or some phase of a child’s development presented that helps a little one realize they aren’t the only one going through whatever their troubles might be. I have to say from personal experience, I never would have thought that I would use a Mo Willems book to teach my son how to say please, but his book Time to Say Please! was perfect. I’ m impressed by the range of books that he has written and City Dog, Country Frog really shows the depth Mr. Willems has as an author. City Dog, Country Frog still has the fun and humor we come to expect, but none of the silliness. Jon J. Muth’s amazing watercolor illustrations contribute to the overall tone of the book. Zen Mo Willems? Yes, exactly.
City Dog moves to the country and meets Country Frog sitting on a rock. The two become friends and teach each other what they know. The book is divided into seasons and by the time fall rolls around Country Frog is getting tired. In winter, City Dog looks and waits for his friend. In spring, he is nowhere to be found. But City Dog makes a new friend. The story is so simple, but there is so much to take away from it. On a basic level, it’s a book about seasons. It’s also a book about how our differences give us something to share and that even though we may not look alike or even be of the same species, we can still be friends. Finally, it is about the loss of a friend and making new friends. This part I thought was handled so well, especially for young children. I was afraid this was going to be a tearjerker. Willems manages to introduce the topic and turn it quickly to a sense of hope.
City Dog is adorable and bounding with energy. He is based on Mo Willems’s own dog, Nelson. The paintings of City Dog and Country Frog are so sweet and add another dimension to the story, because they illustrate how the two of them can be together even though they are of varying sizes and shapes.
My dog, Lola, is a large, black lab mix. She makes what I call her “kermit the frog” face. It’s elusive. My husband is always saying is that it? Is that the face? I was shocked, Muth captures it. Even though, she looks nothing like City Dog, she makes the same “froggy” face.
Take a peak at this “Story behind the story” interview with Mo Willems. I love the part about how he decided to work with Jon J. Muth.
I hope that these two brilliant children’s authors consider working together in the future.