by Whitney Grace
When you go to bed you expect to wake up the next morning in the same spot and parents reassure their children this will happen with a good night kiss and a wish of “sweet dreams.” Leah and Alan found the opposite happened when they awoke in a strange forest complete with their beds and blankets. The only thing they want to do, of course, is to return home, but they have absolutely no idea of where to start. As magically as they appeared in the forest, a frog shaped statue tells them the only way home is to follow the path set forth by the stone frogs. Without question, brother and sister begin the long trek home. What follows is an adventure through a dream world filled with obstacles all trying to keep Alan and Leah from returning to the safety of their own bedroom.
If I wanted to be mean, I could say this comic is a quant throwback to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland with aspects of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Doing so, however, would be disrespectful of this simple yet expansive adventure. The Secret of the Strong Frog’s impact comes from the detailed black-and-white illustrations reminiscent of early 20th British children’s literature and the character designs bear a strong resemblance to Herge’s Tin Tin. Each page builds on the antecedent, alluding to a larger world than what exists on the pages. They all bear a second glance as well, because readers will discover something new each time they look at a page.
Alan and Leah journey through a bizarre setting that lacks regular logic and any random object can transform into something different. The story is really something that dreams are made of, because the situations do not come from the waking imagination. For example, Alan’s very words are stolen from his mouth and paving stones in a street turn into crocodiles. At the same time, it embraces the quintessential tale of children trying to find their way home in a strange, magical place. Usually this is a metaphor for growing up and is even mentioned at the end of the graphic novel, but projecting metaphors on an exciting children’s adventure takes away to the awe factor. Not to mention, it does not to be explored down to the miniscule meaning of each comma and placement of frog statues.
While readers are tossed into the story’s fray without any back story or other details, character development is totally situational driven emphasized by the intricate panels. The Secret of the Stone Frog could easily be the start of a longer series or a stand-alone book that is constantly re-read.