Frog and the Stranger

"Yes, yes," said Rat ... "Everything is always my fault. Rat is always blamed for everything." Poor Rat. Poor calm, dignified, funny, clever Rat arrives in the insular woodland community with a fairly heavy stereotype weighing him down. It's a lot to have to deal with on his first day. Lucky then that Rat is gifted with a stoical personality, urge to help, sheer talent and a certain kind of courage. Frog is soon won over by him and gains a great deal from listening to Rat's tales of derring do, dragons and travel adventures. Rat brings stories from around the world, knows 'new things' and is a natural communicator and Frog is an open hearted, empathetic, curious soul - the two are a friendship match made in heaven. Duck and Pig, on the other hand, are not so easy to win around. They have listened to gossip, as well as to some of Rat's Bad Press, and they are only too ready to isolate, bully and exclude the newcomer. But all is not lost - Frog gently encourages Duck and Pig to see that they were always wrong about Rat. Meantime Rat's increasingly heroic actions and general helpfulness only serve to further erode the rotten label that he's been stuck with.                                                                      By the time the sad day comes around that Rat decides it's time to move on, he leaves behind him an empty space and a Duck, Pig and Frog who are quite distraught to lose their beloved friend. They will miss his stories, unusual skills, his kind acts and his global perspective. Of course they still have their memories. And then there is the fact that Rat has promised to return some day and do some (ahem) Bridge Building for them.  Good old Rat.   If you've been concerned lately (and so many of us have been, based on my straw polls of teachers and parents) that there are children in our schools today who've been swimming in anti-immigrant propaganda lately, and with heartbreaking real-world outcomes on the playground ... If you've been actively looking for materials and stories to counteract this (and, Publishers please take note, there are not nearly enough of these right now) then this classic empathy book may well be for you. The story stands on its own, aside from its educational objectives, and would be a welcome addition to any child's bookshelf or school library. 'Frog and the Stranger' is a neat reminder to children that the newcomer may be different but we are ALL different. Be More Frog. Or even More Rat.
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Max Velthuijs
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