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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Ken Kimura
Age Range: Under_5
When Mother and Father Frog have 999 tadpoles in the small pond, they are all content. When the 999 tadpoles become 999 little frogs, however, there’s not enough room for everyone. The long journey begins to find a larger, better home with some adventures to be had along the way.
Ken Kimura has come up with a clever story. Crossing some grassland becomes a huge trek for the many little frogs, turning what could be a simple walk into an exciting, dangerous mission and giving readers a chance to use their imaginations as they look at the world from another perspective. Despite having no stand out characters, the whole family of frogs becomes endearing as they pull together to ensure that everyone makes it to the bigger pond.
This is a family that cares about each other and the wonderful illustrations by Yasunari Murakimi bring them alive. Murakimi’s drawings are an important part of the story and do more than just complement the text. Lots of care has been taken to make these frogs special and to illustrate each stage of their journey and Murakimi has even managed to make each frog look slightly different. On pages where the whole family is crammed into a pond, more impressionistic pictures ensure that no face is exactly the same and on pages where a few frogs are hopping about, they are all in different poses.
It is actually the use of Murakimi’s art that marks out the subtle differences in differing translations of the story and perhaps gives NorthSouth’s 999 Tadpoles the edge over Gecko Press’s 999 Tadpoles Find a New Home. Since pictures are so integral to books for young children, NorthSouth’s attempts to make the text fun and part of the visual really add to the pleasure of reading whereas Gecko’s version seems to miss a trick with this and lacks some sparkle in comparison. NorthSouth has really tried to build on the importance of the pictures; there’s a spectacular double-page where the word ‘splash’ is written many times over a drawing of the frogs falling from the sky into a pond, literally making the picture the story. Gecko has simply written ‘splash’ at the top of the page, and it has less fun and less impact, although both versions have the same illustrations and come from the same original Japanese text.
NorthSouth’s translation is also slightly superior. Both are very good and Gecko’s does have merits, as it seems to have more detail and description in the text. However, NorthSouth’s simpler text includes more dialogue and seems to move along better, letting Murakimi’s illustrations guide the book. Overall, either translation is worth buying, as there is very little between them and this quirky, fun tale is a must-read.
Abby Phillips (2011)