Hobbie explores the wonders of spring through the eyes of a toad that survives the perils and pleasures of its trek to a country garden, where he encounters the author’s granddaughter, Hope.
Opening with a letter explaining how Hope’s discovery of a toad named Gem inspired her to “tell the story of Gem’s spring journey,” Hobbie wordlessly chronicles this odyssey in luminous watercolor, pen and ink illustrations. A palette of fresh greens and yellows heralds springtime, while varying frame sizes and perspectives allow readers to view the realistically rendered toad’s cross-country ramble from multiple angles. They begin with ground-level snaps of him emerging from beneath dandelions. Close-ups show a stunned, shaken Gem nearly creamed by a car. A double-page spread of dandelion-dotted fields reveals Gem’s tiny figure resolutely hopping down a dirt road, while a close-up of Gem wooing a female toad is followed by a spread of Gem surrounded by bouncing baby toads. A harrowing aerial view shows Gem frantically fleeing a swooping hawk; a ground-level shot reveals him hiding in foliage; and a rear close-up spies Gem exiting a birdbath. Eventually, Gem winds up in Hope’s hands for an eye-to-eye look, followed by his release into the insect-filled garden and Hope’s letter thanking Gram for her story.
A stunning gem indeed. (notes about toads) (Picture book. 2-5)