If you haven't been introduced to the literary magic of Campbell Geeslin, then this children's book is a fun way to start. A rural west Texas native familiar with the border life, Geeslin came to know and love the culture of the Mexican people.
In Clara and Señor Frog, a little Mexican girl whose mother works as a magician's assistant discovers something that is truly magical - the artist hidden in her own soul.
Published by Random House Children's Books, and written for ages 4-8, this picture book has the beautiful colors of old Mexico and a sweet story of the beginnings of a new family when Clara's mother marries an artist whose mannerisms and physical size first remind the little girl of a frog. (Nothing is mentioned about a father so it is assumed Clara's mother is a single mom.)
When Clara questions her stepfather why the picture she posed for has mysterious inclusions of a beautiful bird and a strange wooden puppet with green feather whiskers, Señor Frog explains that he is not a photographer, rather he pictures things in a sort of a dream and then he paints what he "sees". Some readers have remarked that Señor Frog might have his origination in the artist, Diego Rivera.
As in all fairy tales, the frog always turns out to be a good guy, as does Clara's new stepfather. By introducing his studio and his appreciation of art to his young stepdaughter, Señor Frog not only gives Clara the encouragement to create her own magic with paints, he has become a positive role model in her life.
Even if you aren't accustomed to the Spanish language, the first page of the book includes a glossary of the words you will encounter, complete with phonic pronunciations and definitions. There are not many Spanish words - only twelve, but they give young readers some bilingual exposure.
Do you recall a long loved favorite picture book from your own childhood? I bet you can still see the images. That's how these beautiful and whimsical illustrations by Ryan Sanchez will become part of a young reader's memory, too. This is Sanchez's first debut in this genre, and undoubtedly won't be his last.
Read the book aloud all the way through. Then, go back and have story time again just pointing out all the different little interesting bits that add depth: like the curly mustache of the magician, the realistic picture of a fly on a slice of melon, the lovely architecture of old Mexico, and the gorgeous butterflies and white calla lilies gracing Señor Frog's murals.
Kids and their "aloud readers" will love this one.