Name of Book: The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone
Author: Timothy Basil Ering
Illustrator: Timothy Basil Ering
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Audience: 4 – 9 (but could be used with groups of all ages)
Summary: “Frog Belly Rat Bone, one, two, three…you must be patient and then you will see!” is the delightful, and I do mean DELIGHTFUL, tale of a boy who buries some grey specks all over Cementland, and in so doing yields a most beautiful and bountiful garden.
Literary Elements at Work: One of the most compelling literary elements at work in this story is color and artistry. The tale takes place in Cementland, which is filled with junk pikes and more junk piles. The opening scenes are colored in grey, black, beige, brown, and steel-blue. The only bright and warm color is on “the very special boy.” He is wearing a red-and-white-striped shirt. The tones remain cool and dark until “the very special boy” goes in search of a treasure and finds a “strange and wonderful box.” The box contains many jewel-toned seed packets and a note that reads, “Put my wondrous riches into the earth and enjoy.” This instruction sends “the very special boy” off planting, watering, protecting, and waiting for something wonderful. Timothy Ering uses a contrasting interplay of dark and cool images with bright, warm and colorful images in a back-and-forth manner to illustrate the disparity between sowing and waiting and seeing.
Scripture: The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, and Luke 8:1-8
Theology: God sows in the most ridiculous places—a small plot of land between a mighty Egypt and a great Assyria; a stammering Moses; an old and barren Sarah; a Canaanite prostitute; the youngest of Jesse’s sons; a murderous breathing Saul—and in so doing reaps a beautiful and bountiful kingdom!
Faith Talk Questions:
Sit down beside your child. Go through the book slowly just looking at the pictures. Talk about the colors and the pictures. Ask: What does Cementland look like? What do you think it sounds like? smells like? tastes like? feels like? Why do you think that? Who lives in Cementland? What makes the “very special boy” special? Who else comes to Cementland? What happens when the visitors come? What are the tiny grey specks? How do Frog Belly Rat Bone and “the very special boy” care for the tiny grey specks? As the tiny grey specks begin to grow, what colors and pictures do you see? What does Cementland look like now? What do you think it sounds like now? smells like now? tastes like now? feels like now? Why do you think that? What happens to the “very special boy,” the rabbit, the rat, the fruit fly, and Frog Belly Rat Bone when the tiny grey specks grow into fruits, vegetables and flowers? Why do you think that happens? Get some seeds and plant a garden in the most ridiculous of places with your child and wait and see!!
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Kim Lee