Monday, July 29, 2013

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

It is the illustrations rather than the story that are so mesmerizing to me. Timothy Basil Ering has a very unique style of mixing watercolors with loose sketches, so the whole thing is all textures and shadows. It's also amazing.

There once was a stick boy who lived in a dank place called Cementland, which was filled with heaping piles of junk. The boy had one wish: to find a true treasure. After endless fruitless searching, he unearths a strange and wonderful box.The box is filled with beautiful packages and a note that instructs the finder to put the wondrous riches into the earth and enjoy.

The boy does as the note instructs, but when he comes back the next day, his plantings have been stolen. Enraged, he rummages through the junk and sets to work making a strange and loathsome creature from smelly socks, moldy pillows, and scraggly wires. Frog Belly Rat Bone is the monster who will guard over the boy's treasures, like a scarecrow for Cementland.

That very night, a rat, a rabbit, and a fruit fly are scared nearly to death when a "giant scary monster with long bony arms and wet smelly socks" leaps out. The thieves run off and the boy's treasures remain safe. The little boy and Frog Belly water the treasures and continue to guard against thieves. Soon Cementland is covered in beautiful flowers and laden with delicious fruit and vegetables. They all celebrate, even the thieves (who came back and apologized).  

This book was originally published in 2003, and has been adapted to the stage play by Rogue Artist Ensemble in Los Angeles, California. This printing celebrates the book's ten year anniversary.   

Timothy Basil Ering says this book was inspired by a visit to Descanso Gardens, a botanical garden in Pasadena, California, where there is a private garden for urban Los Angeles schoolchildren. "For as long as I can remember, I have loved to mix up words and phrases into silly little combinations that would make me laugh," he explains. "I’d make up songs while meandering down the outer beach of Cape Cod to favorite fishing spots, and ‘Frog Belly Rat Bone’ was always a favorite string of nouns. Then one day in Pasadena, I sat at a tiny picnic table in the children’s garden and began to sketch the garden’s scarecrow. I knew at that moment that Frog Belly Rat Bone had found a home." 

Timothy Basil Ering also wrote and illustrated Finn Throws a Fit, which is equally excellent.

Review copy provided by Candlewick Press. 


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