Frog Song

By Megan Hollingsworth, illustrated by Bonnie Gordon-Lucas. Self-published, 2023. 96 pages. $27/hardcover. Recommended for ages 9 and up.

As a kid who loved animals and facts, I enjoyed learning about our planet’s great diversity of wildlife. But how sad it was to learn about the extinct and endangered species! What can we do, I wondered, to stop or prevent such things from happening? There are many ways to get involved and connect with groups doing conservation work, but a child learning these facts can easily feel overwhelmed or hopeless. Megan Hollingsworth’s Frog Song offers one accessible entry point into the important work of researching these species and finding solutions to our current global ecological health crisis.

Did you know that globally amphibians are the most endangered vertebrates? The back cover of Frog Song leads with this truth, and makes a promise: “We can help them.” This coupled with the cute and smiley frog on the front cover, illustrated by Bonnie Gordon-Lucas, pulled me right in. The compact book opens with an “interspecies love poem” starring a young girl and a one-of-a-kind frog who form a special bond, learning from each other and singing songs, until one sad day the frog dies. But the girl keeps singing their songs, which eventually give birth to the “first treefrog of a certain kind.” There’s death and then there’s birth, and so on the cycle goes.

The poem, and I suspect the book itself, was inspired by a real frog called Toughie, who was the last known Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog before he died in 2016. But his song lives on (literally—it was recorded by an amphibian conservationist and anyone can listen to it online). It’s clear Hollingsworth, who is a Quaker and has a master’s in environmental studies, is someone who cares and feels deeply about all beings—so much so that 12 years ago she started a creative spiritual practice she calls Extinction Witness “to express and support complicated grief associated with anthropogenic species extinction and genocide.” These topics are heavy and complex stuff, and that’s why Hollingsworth recommends this book for accompanied readers ages nine and up.

A page titled “How to use this book” suggests how to engage with the content, which after the poem includes a well-researched, information-packed section all about Toughie, his life, the threats and challenges that contribute to amphibian decline (including habitat loss and deadly fungi), the search for “lost” and “new” frogs (those words are in quotes because it’s hard to know for sure), solutions that illustrate how “helping frogs helps everyone,” conservation-related homework, and an animal scavenger hunt activity. There are bolded words throughout (from biodiversity and captive breeding to rewilding and wetlands) that correspond to a robust glossary in the back for in-the-moment learning, followed by notes and references.

The last section, “Big Death Big Birth,” brings it all together, touching on death, continuation, and the sixth extinction in only two short pages, but they leave readers feeling optimistic and hopeful about what the future could be. It’s prefaced by a quote from the late Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hahn that ends with these wise words: “Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is in transformation. There is no real death because there is always continuation.”

Lastly there are two line illustrations near the end that children can color and add to (you can request printed copies at one of a frog and one of a circle with the prompt “We imagine a world filled with…” Well, frog song, of course, but what else? That’s for us to imagine, create, and protect together. I would recommend Frog Song for frog- and earth-loving kids and adults who want to show up for our world’s most threatened species by jumping into conservation learning with a big splash.

Gail Whiffen is a Quaker who grew up attending Gwynedd (Pa.) Meeting. A kid of the ’90s, she had a subscription to the now-defunct Wildlife Fact Files, where her love of amazing facts began. She is associate editor of Friends Journal.

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