The Timeless Bond of Friendship
by Alexie Basil
Nearly 50 years after being published, the iconic best friends—Frog and Toad—have made a comeback in popular culture as laugh-out-loud funny (sometimes wholesome) memes. Who knew amphibians could be so relatable?!
Two of the most beloved and cherished characters in children’s literature, Frog and Toad star in stories that have become timeless gems that resonate with children and their adult guardians on different levels. So many scenarios feel hilariously familiar—perhaps because creator Arnold Lobel put so much of his own life experience onto the page.
As a recent art school graduate, Arnold knew he wanted to illustrate children’s books. “I would go to the employment agencies and say, ‘I think I would like to try illustrating children’s books,’ and they would say ‘Oh no, there’s no money in it’ and since I had a family to support I said, ‘Well there’s no money in it.’” (Read more in this incredible interview.)
Fortunately for meme lovers and literary fans of all ages, Arnold didn’t give up. “I finally decided that I could not get on the subway every morning and face the workaday world so I had to try free-lancing in children’s book illustration.”
Like E. B. White, Arnold’s persistence eventually helped him get connected with the powerhouse children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom at Harper & Row. He began by illustrating books by other authors, including one that was “64 pages of pictures of salmon swimming upstream.”
“They wouldn’t dream of giving it to an artist who had any kind of reputation,” he said.
Eventually, Arnold began to write his own books—mostly for financial reasons. “I turned to writing only as a kind of economic expediency, because you quickly learn that when you’re illustrating for another author, you get 5% royalties and when you’re writing your own story, you get 10%.”
At 36, his 100% original work, Frog and Toad Are Friends, hit bookstore shelves.
To Arnold, the serious Toad and energetic Frog represented different parts of his personality. “Frog and Toad are really two aspects of myself,” Arnold once explained. When asked where his story ideas come from in an interview with Roni Natov and Geraldine Deluca of Johns Hopkins University, Arnold answered:
“Oh, heaven knows. Well, how does an adult author come upon an idea for a story? It’s a lifetime experience. It’s just that I transmogrify everything to children because that’s my particular medium. You know, if an adult has an unhappy love affair, he writes about it. He exorcises it out of himself, perhaps, by writing a novel about it. Well, if I have an unhappy love affair, I have to somehow use all that pain and suffering but turn it into a work for children.”
Whether you read Frog and Toad Are Friends for the inseparable friendship, the relatable moments, or the memes, one thing is for certain: this dynamic duo is sure to enthrall readers of all ages for many years to come.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs