by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil and Alana Pedalino
My first extra-parental relationship was with my imaginary friend, Jumbo.
However, since then, virtually all my friendships have led in one way or another to Scholastic.
My first non-imaginary friend was Debbie Reichard, whom I met at the John Ward School in second grade. Debbie and I were very different, but I loved being her best friend. I showed up at her back door every morning to walk to school. On weekends, I headed to her house to help stuff envelopes for political campaigns her mom was spearheading. I even accompanied the Reichards on their family vacations in Squam Lake in New Hampshire. I think about Debbie often, though I haven’t seen her in decades. So it was truly thrilling to get an email from her daughter, Madelene, who—as a third grade teacher in Alaska who uses Scholastic Book Clubs—saw her mom’s photo in a post on this blog a few months ago.
I met Margaret in September 1975 on my first day of college. We were two of three girls assigned to a “triple” dorm room on the second floor of Plant House, the second-oldest residence at Connecticut College.
Margaret and her parents had flown in from London. Margaret was dressed in Chanel or Burberry—or something fabulous—with matching luggage. I drove to college in a Vista Cruiser station wagon from Newton, Massachusetts, with my family and my oversize panda teddy bear, Hubie. I was wearing bell-bottoms and a midriff top from Newton Center’s teen store, Hip Pocket, and carrying a knapsack. I had never met a 17-year-old like Margaret. The room was too small for all of us and our other roommate, so I moved out second semester.
Years later, our paths kept crossing. We met up at Rupert Towers parties, we had mutual friends, and eventually we saw each other all over the place in Montclair, New Jersey, where we both ended up moving to and starting our families. Margaret and I decided we were on the same journey, albeit wearing different traveling clothes. I loved that we were friends. No one ever believed our ridiculous history, but we had so much fun telling it to people.
Just a few months ago, Margaret and I were in our usual weekly spots, side by side in Fabiola’s and Rosa’s chairs, at Oro in Montclair getting our hair done. Margaret tried to convince me yet again to join the Montclair Golf Club, asked me about Hubie (as usual), and introduced me by email to her son Charlie’s girlfriend, Margaret Feltham, a wonderful fifth grade teacher in Denver. Again, a road that led to Scholastic.
One of the most important, definitive relationships in my life is with David Vozar. David and I met in 1979, and we have been working together ever since. We finish each other’s sentences. He is trained first as an artist and I am a word person, but our minds meld uncannily…year after year. We literally think the same thoughts. I can’t imagine doing this blog—or any of our daily work at Scholastic—without him. I cherish our years—um, decades—together of sharing our vision for Scholastic Book Clubs and helping teachers, kids, and parents connect with amazing books they will love…and our timeless and constant friendship.
This week’s Dollar Deal, Frog and Toad Are Friends, makes me think about all the long-lasting friendships I’ve made, as well as the friendships others have made. Frog and Toad’s bond is one of mutual respect and admiration. While they may act like polar opposites at times, this never stops these beloved green characters from going out of their way for each other and doing kind things to bring each other happiness.
For example, Toad makes Frog a spectacularly fashionable coat that I am terribly jealous of:
Frog sends Toad a thoughtful letter to let Toad know he is simply glad that they are best friends:
At Scholastic, I’ve watched others forge friendships, and I’ve had the privilege to watch those friendships grow. It’s thrilling—and so validating of Scholastic Book Clubs’ culture—to see coworkers develop bonds like Frog and Toad’s, such as:
Lisa (Art Director) and Nicole (Assistant Director of Student Merchandising), who met at Scholastic on Nicole’s first day more than five years ago…
Amber (my assistant and coworker on all kinds of assorted projects!) and Alana (Blog Manager), who sit right next to each other…
Claudia (Art Director) and Hisami (Senior Art Director), also desk buddies…
Elliott and Allister of Book Boys fame…
The aforementioned best friend and trusted colleague of mine, David Vozar, has also developed friendships with colleagues in the office.
“While discussing this week’s Dollar Deal with my colleague Morgan Walker, she mentioned one of the reasons she loves Frog and Toad is because of the clothes they wear.
“As I looked through the books again, I was also impressed by the care that Arnold Lobel gave in picking out their wardrobe. It got me wondering, ‘What if Frog and Toad dressed like me?’”
The list goes on!
These friendships, as well as my own, inspire me and make me excited to share Arnold Lobel’s charming and beloved Caldecott Honor–winning chapter book with you this week.
“Imperfect friendship or it wouldn’t be true—and most perfectly expressed in their faces.” —Kirkus Reviews
Frog and Toad Are Friends contains five short stories about the everyday adventures of two best friends who are different but who always have each other’s back. As I reread the book this week, I was reminded of just how funny the stories are. It always impresses me how Arnold Lobel manages to capture such honest and relatable life moments.
The blog team was excited to hop into this week’s Dollar Deal: the Book Boys explore the true meaning of friendship; a second grade teacher shares how she uses Frog and Toad Are Friends to teach her students about friendship in Book Talks; we present a letter-writing classroom activity for teachers to use in Cooked Up from a Book; and we take a look at the life and legacy of Arnold Lobel in Behind the Scenes.
I hope you and your students enjoy Frog and Toad Are Friends and that it reminds you just how special the friendships in your life are. As always, I love hearing from you—please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any thoughts or questions at: JNBlog@scholastic.com
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs