Tales From The Frog Forest by Irina Lopatina and illustrated by Alla Shapiro, is a fun-filled collection of adventures that three unlikely friends face. Lopatina’s writing is easy to follow and understand. She employs clear descriptions, and incorporates dialogue between the characters, which helps the reader feel as if they are on the adventures with the animals rather than telling of the adventures. The book overall has dominant themes such as the importance of friendship and conquering one’s fears. Lopatina, being from Russia wants to instill proper cultural values and morals to her young readers. All of the individual stories have various ideals from the Russian culture embedded within them.
The first story titled “Good Morning” illustrates how Raska, a young adventurous Lynx, Tuk, a musical woodpecker, and Zaya, a shy and timid rabbit all become friends in the Frog Forest. Even from the friend’s first meeting, Lopatina is projecting the message of friendship and acceptance to the audience. Similarly, in the same story, the ideas of good manners and respect are brought up as well when she writes, “The young lynx wanted to jump and dance to the cheerful tune that flew out from under the birds strong beak, but her mother always told her to be polite when she met someone new in the forest. So instead the young lynx shouted gleefully ‘Good Morning!’”
In another story titled “Zaya’s Green Monster,” the trio travels to a delicious berry bush where they are confronted by a monster Zaya described as being, “Huge!” Then the story goes on to say, “’they jump all the time while screaming something like this… ‘ The little hare puffed his cheeks, jumped on the spot and yelled very strangely.” However, through the help of his friends, he learns that “the monster” is only a frog that won’t hurt him. This story not only teaches children to be brave, but to be understanding of other people’s fears and weaknesses.
The final tale of the three friends is one that encourages them to use their imagination and creativity on a rainy day. They all make up a song about the rain, using the rhythm of the raindrops to guide them as they sing together:
“I am jumping, jumping, jumping- I will soak all the leaves!
I am running, running, running- I will help all the mushrooms!
I am singing, singing, singing- I will water all the flowers!
I will start a dance with you- Ryska, Zaya and Tuk!”
The book ends by saying, ”they were glad to know there would be many, many more days filled with adventures and games- rain or shine.” Despite the rain, the three friends were able to make the best of their situation and still have fun together.
Shapiro masterfully illustrates the adventures of Ryska, Zaya and Tuk, bringing the characters to life. The colors are bold and vibrant, and she often depicts the creatures in motion. Through the narration of Lopatina and illustrations of Shapiro, the reader has a sense of being transported to a magical land where the creatures play together, learning about life in Frog Forest.