The Frog and his Dancing Shoes is Tolulope Ogunmefun’s first children’s book. According to an article from New Beacon Bookstore in London, where Tolu recently had the book launched, he had this to say about the book’s inspiration:
“After what many parents told him about how he made their children so happy and also by the birth of his own daughter, he decided he wanted to do something for his younger fans – write a children’s book! A book which was entertaining but also taught young children good morals.”
My five-year-old son Myles is a keen reader and smiled when I showed him Tolu’s book as his bedtime story. On seeing the book’s cover, his first reaction was, “wow! This looks like fun.”
The book’s cover is bright and colourful, with a scene depicting the seaside. It gives the impression that it is set in the Caribbean with sunbathing, beach chairs and frolicking in the sea. However, as we open the book, the scene changes to a mythical, magical forest setting with oak and pine trees. There are even a few pages depicting snow-covered fields and candle-lit cottages against a background of winter blue. If you are expecting professional, consistently themed or traditionally crafted illustration, you will not find that in this book. However, if you want a fun and engaging story with a strong moral message, this is a good call. That said, the quirkiness of illustration adds appeal and character to the story. The text is bold and clear, making it easy for my son to read without regularly pausing, stumbling or requesting help. The language is also simple and well-suited for early readers without being condescending and boring.
The main character, a bowtie-wearing dancing frog with bright red shoes, is larger than all the other characters, such that my son’s attention is immediately drawn to him. He laughs and exclaims how funny and friendly the frog looks. The rabbit, chipmunk and squirrel seem equally captivated by the frog, eagerly cheering him on from the side-lines, with admiration in their eyes. However, not everyone in this scene seems to be a fan. A rather cross canary can be seen lurking in the background, eyeing the frog with obvious disdain. Do these two have history? What issues could a gentle canary possibly have with a friendly frog?
The usage of forest creatures as characters makes it immediately appealing to younger readers. The illustrations seem familiar, with bold, bright colours and definite outlines that remind us of a children’s animated film. In fact, the story could easily be translated into a short film that teaches children a very important life lesson – do not be overcome by jealousy. This happens to be a common theme and strapline addressed by the book’s author, Tolulope, a well-known Youtube personality, actor and comedian. Tolu’s rise to fame came with his youtube channel “DntJealousMe”, which has over 170K subscribers and more than 41M views. He uses comedy as a vehicle for addressing trending news and issues through his character “T-Boy”, drawing on his Nigerian heritage, culture and phrasing to present his hilarious sketches, monologues and rants.
The frog in the story is a great dancer, especially when he wears his red shoes. He twirls and spins non-stop, thrilling the onlookers and winning their hearts. The bird becomes jealous of the frog’s talents and devises plans to seize his red dancing shoes. Nothing can stop an angry bird. Will the bird seize the prize, or will he get his just reward? The book presents a good framework for discussing “jealousy” with kids, looking at how to deal with the emotion as individuals but also how to respond when faced with being the target of jealous actions. It gets the smiles from Myles.
You can purchase a copy of the book here.
Written by Philip Robinson