I had seen An Army of Frogs at the library. I had checked it out twice. It looked interesting. It looked fun. But I couldn’t get into it. I groaned when I saw it come up on the Lovelace nominee list for 2016-17. I was not looking forward to forcing myself to read it all the way through when I hadn’t previously been able to get past the second chapter.
Now that I have done so I can absolutely say that I am glad I did. An Army of Frogs tells the story of Darel, a wood frog in Australia whose father was one of a great warrior frog species called the Kulipari. Kulipari frogs are brightly colored and actually possess poison with which to defeat their enemies. Because Darel is only HALF Kulipari he has neither of those distinctive traits. But ever since he can remember, Darel has wanted to BE a Kulipari. To make up for his lack of inherent Kulipari qualities Darel trains…and trains…and trains. He practices sparring and stealth, dragging his best friend Gee into the adventures with him–usually in the role of his mock opponent.
An Army of Frogs was a surprise to me in that, based on the first couple chapters, I thought it would be one battle description after another–but it is not. Readers watch Darel grow a great deal from the first to the final pages of his story. He learns the value of friendship, how easy it is to take a good friend for granted and that being a good friend often involves hard choices. He and his friends learn about the reality of courage and integrity, replacing their imagined fantasies about the glories of battle and war.
In addition to these valuable insights–absolutely relevant in the lives of young readers–An Army of Frogs ends up being a really good story about magic, good and evil and young heroes in the making. The villains–the scorpion commander Lord Maramoo and the evil Spider Queen Jarrah are magnificently evil and easy to root against. A classic underdog story, the first in a trilogy, Trevor Pryce has created a fantastic new fantasy realm for upper elementary readers. The illustrations by Sanford Greene–a fantastic Marvel Comics artist–are stunning and in the tradition of the best comics and graphic novels.
Young readers who enjoy works like Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Marvel & DC Universe, etc. will LOVE An Army of Frogs! I certainly did!