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DIG, WAIT, LISTEN by April Pulley Sayre


A Desert Toad’s Tale

by April Pulley Sayre & illustrated by Barbara Bash

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: May 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-688-16614-8
Publisher: Greenwillow

A patient spadefoot toad waits in her desert burrow, listening for rain so she can come forth to mate. Sayre’s (Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out!, 2000, etc.) onomatopoetic text, aided by energetic typeface shifts, presents the many sounds the toad would hear, from the “skitter, skitter, scratch” of a scorpion, to the “tap, tap, tap” of a gila woodpecker on a cactus, to—at last!—the “plop thunk, plop thunk, plop thunk gussssshhhhhhh!” of a sudden desert rain. The simple question-and-answer format (“What’s that sound now? Is this the rain at last? No, it’s a rat . . . ”) builds tension and involves readers directly in the toad’s experience. Bash’s (Phantom of the Prairie, 1998, etc.) expressive pencil, pen-and-ink, and watercolor illustrations shift back and forth from the toad’s burrow to the action above, occasionally layering the two views until the rain brings the toad’s confinement to an end and she is out in the blessed, drenched open. The text and illustrations describe the lifecycle of the spadefoot toad in detail (including toad sex), the tadpoles’ swift metamorphosis in the drying puddles leading to a retreat to their burrows to wait for the next rain. Finely detailed illustrations capture the desert’s denizens in motion, complementing the aurality of the text and contrasting with the ever-patient toad, which they invest with a remarkable amount of personality. This is top-notch nonfiction for the very young, introducing readers to desert wildlife in general and in particular to the remarkable spadefoot toad, who may wait in her burrow for up to 11 months for the next rain. (author’s note, additional facts on desert neighbors) (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)