<B>There's no place like home</B>Mark Taylor's first picture book was inspired by a real-life event. A family friend built and painted a birdhouse to look like an apple, then gave it to Taylor and his family. What a wonderful idea for a birdhouse and a story! <B>The Frog House</B> opens with a father and his two children hanging an apple birdhouse in a tree. Nearby, a little green tree frog watches with curiosity and decides to move into the house. But before long, he's disturbed by loud pecking. It's a robin, convinced that the frog house is a real apple. The frog sets the robin straight, suggesting that the bird look for worms in the ground. Soon the frog is knocked from side to side inside his new house. Someone is pushing him around! "I'm a crow, and crows like bright things," says the frog's new visitor. This time, the frog gives the crow some colorful red ribbon, and the bird flies off.
By this point, young readers will be eager to learn who the frog's next visitors will be and how he will manage to keep them from taking or taking over his lovely new home. As for the frog himself, why, he's never had so much company in his life. It isn't long before the best visitor of all appears.
Mark Taylor, who has a degree in fishery and wildlife science, makes good use of his background in crafting this appealing tale. Equally delightful are the illustrations by award-winning artist Barbara Garrison, who uses a series of collagraph plates to create a folk-art flavor. A note on how the art was created is included. It's easy to imagine that, after reading The Frog House, children will be pestering parents to build birdhouses in the shape of apples for their backyards. As a matter of fact, I have just such a birdhouse in my own yard, and as soon as the spring comes, I'm going to peek inside. Maybe mine will be a frog house, too. <I>Deborah Hopkinson's new picture book for children is</I> A Packet of Seeds, <I>with illustrations by Bethanne Andersen.</I>