'Frog And Toad' Leap Off The Page Again Adrianne Lobel was surprised to discover illustrated handmade pamphlets of poems that her father, Arnold, had given to friends as gifts. She decided to use her expertise as an artist to color her father's black and white illustrations and published them in a book.
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'Frog And Toad' Leap Off The Page Again

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'Frog And Toad' Leap Off The Page Again

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

If you're very young, your secret pleasure may come from two friends in children's books, Frog and Toad. They're the creation of the late writer and illustrator Arnold Lobel. Frog and Toad go sledding, they look for spring, eat chocolate ice cream cones and are completely devoted to each other in a way only well-dressed amphibians can be.

Arnold Lobel died in 1987, but now there's a new addition to the world of Frog and Toad, a collection of 10 rhyming stories called "The Frogs and Toads All Sang."

Ms. ADRIANNE LOBEL: (Reading) Pollywog's School. Underneath the lily pads, where the mud is cool, many little pollywogs swim their way to school. We go to class each day, said one, and all we do is wiggle. We do not read. We do not write. We only squirm and giggle.

BLOCK: Adrianne Lobel is the author's daughter, and she's behind this new book. The poems and black-and-white line drawings pre-date the Frog and Toad series. Arnold Lobel wrote and drew them and gave them as gifts to friends. Now, his daughter, an artist and set designer, has added color and published them.

Adrianne Lobel says her father's drawings were discovered last year at an estate auction.

Ms. LOBEL: In a box, they found these three beautifully bound pamphlets that my father had handwritten and illustrated with little pencil, thumbnail sketches. These books were poems about frogs and toads. And when I saw them, I could not believe how complete they were. I also had no memory of him making these books.

BLOCK: How did your father start writing about and drawing frogs and toads in the first place?

Ms. LOBEL: I have always credited myself with the person who instructed my father as to the difference between frogs and toads.

BLOCK: Oh, really?

Ms. LOBEL: And now, I realize he was just humoring me. I gave him this whole lecture when I was in Vermont one summer. We used to rent houses, and I came in with a toad in my hand, and he said, what a nice frog you have there. And I said, no, no, no, no, no. This is not a frog, this is a toad. And this is why. And then, a year later, the first Frog and Toad book came out.

But what's interesting about this book is that it serves to prove me wrong and that frogs and toads were very much already in his mind almost 10 years earlier and that he did know the difference, and I think he was just humoring me.

BLOCK: These line drawings that your father did to accompany these rhyming stories, they're different from the Frog and Toad books that we know, if we've read them to our children. They're less carefully crafted.

Ms. LOBEL: These drawings I think were probably dashed off a little bit more, but I find that that makes them very exciting.

BLOCK: And we see, gosh, there's a frog in the kitchen, holding up an apple pie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: There's a frog - this is a toad, sorry. This is a toad digging into a bowl of something, a frog playing a violin and dreaming about a clarinet.

Ms. LOBEL: Now, that's very sad, that one.

BLOCK: Bright green frog.

Ms. LOBEL: Yes. Shall I read that one?

BLOCK: Yeah, why don't you?

Ms. LOBEL: Okay. This one touches me.

(Reading) Bright Green Frog. A bright green frog with slippery skin played waltzes on a violin, but while he played with skill and grace, he wore a frown upon his face. I fiddle well, he sighed, and yet I'd rather play the clarinet.

BLOCK: This frog has big dreams.

Ms. LOBEL: Yes, and it took me a long time to do that illustration. You find out how much color actually adds to a story. That took me a very long time to figure out how to color that picture, what color to make the clarinet, what color to make the frog. The frog is a slightly blue-green. So I felt he should have something of blues about him, like jazz.

BLOCK: When you were painting these illustrations, were you thinking about things your dad had told you over the years about art and how he approached (unintelligible)?

Ms. LOBEL: Yeah, I think that's so deeply embedded in me, the way my father worked, the way he drew, what his influences were. Many of them are my influences, too, obviously. You know, we would look at Cezanne paintings together. We would look at Rembrandt together. He just showed me things.

BLOCK: So it wasn't specific things he told you so much as the whole experience of being…

Ms. LOBEL: Well, I remember when I was very little, he told me: Don't be afraid to color out of the lines.

BLOCK: Ah.

Ms. LOBEL: So, of course, on these illustrations, I worked with a huge brush and with very brilliant Dr. Martin's dyes and a lot of water. And the sloppier I was, in a controlled way, the happier I was with the illustrations. And I think for the most part, I did succeed in doing that.

BLOCK: And you think dad would approve?

Ms. LOBEL: Well, I don't know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LOBEL: I hope so, I hope so.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: Adrienne Lobel colored in and outside the lines in the book "The Frogs and Toads All Sang" by her father, Arnold Lobel. There are illustrations from Frog and Toad books, old and new, at npr.org.

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