Author: Elizabeth W. Davidson

Illustrated by Michael Hagelberg

ISBN: 9781589850255

Cheery: The true adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog by Elizabeth W. Davidson and illustrated by Michael Hagelberg is a perfect example of a worthwhile and important children’s book. It has all the elements of a good story while providing education. Unlike a lot of the drivel published for kids, it has a purpose and point.

As the story opens, Cheery is a pollywog, also called a Chiricahua (Cheer-a-cow-ah) frog tadpole. He happily does what nature has intended: swims, eats algae, and grows in his cozy pond surrounded by friends such as birds, dragonflies, and Wise Old Frog. The first plot point occurs when Cheery spots two dangerous enemies that have been placed in his home by humans: the crayfish and the bullfrog.

The reader is taken through summer, winter hibernation, and the spring awakening with Cheery. But spring, which should be a wonderful time of awakening, brings a harsh reality. Many of Cheery’s friends have been killed or eaten during the winter. Cheery is now sad and lonely.

One day, some humans come to the pond and scoop up Cheery in a bucket and take him sloshing down the road in a truck to a new location. At first, it seems scary, but it turns out to be a new, temporary home at the zoo where kind folks help Cheery and other Chiricahua Leopard frogs thrive and grow.

The adventures come full circle to a wonderful surprise, which I won’t spoil here. But suffice it to say that the story is as interesting as the science is educational. The creators of this wonderful book are well qualified for the project.

Elizabeth W. Davidson, the author, has her doctorate in entomology and conducts research on amphibians, working with scientists from around the world.

Michael Hagelberg, the illustrator, became the creative director, designer, and illustrator for Arizona State University’s award winning Research magazine.

One of my favorite things about this book is the curriculum guide for educators and parents that appears at the back. Jean Kilker, the creator of the guide, is a teacher-librarian and former Follett Librarian of the Year. There are discussion questions for before, during, and after reading. There is also a list of resources, including a link where you can listen to real frogs.

Alarmingly, Chiricahua Leopard frogs are disappearing from our Earth. We should care –and teach our children to care–because these amphibians are important to our “food web.” They eat insects that bite us, and they serve as food for fish, birds and  other animals that are also important to our world.

Highly recommended for home and classrooms alike.

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