Friday, August 10, 2007

Poetry Friday: Toad by the Road

A Year in the Life of These Amazing Amphibians

Written by Joanne Ryder
Illustrated by Maggie Kneen
Henry Holt, 2007

Toad in the Road is a poetry collection with a plus: It includes a brief paragraph of information about toads below the poems on nearly every page. The author, Joanne Ryder, is one of my favorite authors of books about nature for young children.

This collection is divided into four sections—each of which contains from five to seven poems: Spring-Summer, Summer, Late Summer-Fall, and Winter-Spring. This format allows readers to follow the life cycle and experiences of these “amazing amphibians” through the course of a year.

Nearly every poem in Toad by the Road is a mask poem told in the voice of a single toad or the collective voices of a group of tadpoles or toads. The poems are rhythmic and rhyming and undoubtedly would appeal to young children—especially those who have a keen interest in animals and nature.

The book opens with The Pond’s Chorus, a little counting chant.

From The Pond’s Chorus

One toad,
One song.
Two toads
Sing along.
Three toads,
Better yet.
Four toads,
A quartet…

Next come poems about toads singing in springtime and a vigilant toad escaping before a snake can strike. In the fourth poem, Tadpole’s Surprises, a tadpole is surprised by the changes happening to its own body:

From Tadpole’s Surprises

I’m sleek and shiny,
Smooth and black.
Hey, legs are popping
Out in back.
These legs are fun.
I’d like some more.
Hey, look at me.
Now I’ve got four...

By the end of the poem its tail has disappeared and it can hop!

There’s a poem Zap, Zap in which a toad talks about its long, sticky tongue…and a poem Summer Days about a toad hiding from the sun’s hot “breath” and “touch” beneath a porch…and a poem about a toad shedding its snug, dry sky…and a poem entitled Just Fooling in which a toad explains how it plays dead to defend against predators…and a poem about getting ready for hibernation. The collection ends with the poem Toad by the Road, which brings us full circle and back to spring again.

Here is an excerpt of the book's informational text from one of the pages: Toads have strong hind legs and dig their own burrows to hide from danger, extreme heat, and cold. Their hearts beat slowly, as they rest below the frost line, safe from snow and icy winds.

Maggie Kneen’s watercolor illustrations befit the poems in this collection. The artist uses a palette of soft natural colors--mostly browns, greens, grays, blues, and white…with touches of yellow and orange. Kneen’s toads don’t stand out on the page…rather, they nearly blend into the different settings as they do in nature.

This is a great collection for connecting poetry and science in the early elementary grades.

The Poetry Friday Roundup today is at Big A, little a.


Tricia said...

Hi Elaine,
I can't wait to read this one! It sounds like so much fun. Thanks for a great review.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I hope you like this poetry collection.

I have lots of Ryder's books. Some of my favorites: DANCERS IN THE GARDEN(hummingbirds), WHERE BUTTERFLIES GROW, THE SNAIL'S SPELL, CHIPMUNK SONG, SEA ELF(sea otters), STEP INTO THE NIGHT, UNDER YOUR FEET, and MY FATHER'S HANDS. Unfortunately, some of these titles are now out of print.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I'll go looking for that one. Thanks!

Vivian Mahoney said...

This sounds perfect for my kids. They've been catching little toads near the town outdoor swimming pool.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Jules and Vivian,

I think really young children would like this collection. It got a starred review in Booklist.
I know I would have used it with my second graders if I were still teaching.

Anonymous said...

Finally got my copy from the library, Elaine! I like it. And so does my three-year-old. Thanks for the rec!

Elaine Magliaro said...


Glad you and your three-year-old like the Ryder book.