The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone (Candlewick, 2003)

by Timothy Basil Ering

I have a feeling this is one of those books that you either adore to hyperbolic proportions or is completely off your radar. 

I’m in the hyperbolic proportions camp, but it’s still a book I forget about. And then when I remember, I wonder how I forgot?!

So this is an origin story, one that starts in Cementland and ends in gritty beauty.

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

The first spread is so perfect. A wide shot of Cementland, described as a dull, gray, endless place. A boy, arms open and striped in red, stands at your attention in the midst of all that gray. All of the lines and the stress and the mess lead you right to him.

This red-striped fellow believes treasure hides among the heaps of junk in Cementland, and in a triumphant moment finds a box bursting with color. Bright colored packages, but filled only with tiny gray specks. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering Hundreds of them. Not wondrous riches.

He plants anyway. And after two or three minutes, nothing happens.

While he’s gone, thieves root and loot the plot. So this boy–this treasure hunter, gathers smelly socks, scraggly wires, and of course, a crown, and dubs his creation Frog Belly Rat Bone, the monster who will protect the specks. 

They are a duo with a mission and a patched together friendship that pays big rewards. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering  

That’s why Timothy Basil Ering’s use of texture is the only possibility for this type of storytelling. The art is the story. It’s stitched up. It’s not slick. It’s piled up and layered and cobbled together just like Frog Belly Rat Bone himself. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering There’s warmth in the mess and intention in the scatter. It’s as beautiful as that treasure that the red-striped boy finds. And creates. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering breaker

“…[W]hen I first made the dummy book for Frog Belly Rat Bone, naturally, I beat up some wood and sewed it all together. It gave it that nostalgic, cobbled-together look that’s just plain interesting to me. I wanted it to look like it was made the same way the little boy in the story makes Frog Belly, with just raw hand-stitching and splashes of paint.”

(That’s from here, which is a great read!)

It’s definitely one I want to share early in the year with our fourth graders who are the school’s expert gardeners. It would pair well with The Curious Garden (for obvious reasons) but also classic unlikely friendship stories. Isn’t a trash-made monster-thing with picky underwear a pretty unlikely friend? I’m thinking about Amos and Boris and Leonardo the Terrible Monster. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

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Giveaway Update: Thanks for playing! I’ve picked the winners, but I’m going to wait until my order comes in from the bookstore to share the spoils. We had to special order a few titles. Did you know your local indie will do that for you?! And then you get to go back. Stay tuned!

15 Comments

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Ooohhhh, I haven’t seen this book before! Those spreads are gorgeous – I’ll have to find it today! Thank you <3

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I’m in the “this was off my radar” camp. Thanks for rectifying that.

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    This is so enticing looking. Thanks for highlighting this!

  • ncf15
    Posted July 29, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Adding to my list. Stunner book, stunner story about the book.

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Really lovely book :-)

  • cyberpunkstudio
    Posted July 29, 2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Lovely book 😉

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Beautiful and unique.

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful post about an intriguing book! I am off to follow your links (Amos and Boris being an all-time favorite!) and find this book – I want to see these layers of illustration in person. Thank you!

  • Posted July 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Спасибо.
    Как всегда, хороший выбор! :))

  • Posted July 30, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    This book is beautiful, and so wildly it’s own look. Thanks for telling us about it.

  • Posted July 30, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    The colors are terrific! They’re made all the more prettier by the more bland pics elsewhere in the book. Plus, that title. Love.

  • Posted July 31, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Oooh, I need to check this one out! Thanks.

  • Posted August 1, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I have a feeling I will be in the hyperbolic proportions camp, too – need to go find it!

  • Rachael B B
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never seen this, I have been missing out. It’s wonderful. It makes me think of Oddkins by Dean Koontz, my mom read it to me when I was little and I’m always surprised that no one ever seems to have heard of it. Thanks for bringing The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone to my attention, it’s going in the must find and buy list ASAP.

  • Posted August 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    This looks incredibly awesome!! Thanks!