BOOKS: Free-spirited pig makes important point
By Jean Patrick
Republic Book Columnist
When the sun rises over the pond on the first page of "Ribbit!" all looks serene. The early morning haze hangs in the air. A soft ring of yellow-green grass shimmers in the yellow-rose light.
But "Ribbit!" by Rodrigo Folgueira, is not a serene picture book. When you turn the page, you'll see a big pink pig perched on a rock.
That's right. A pig.
When the chief frog dares to ask, "What can we do for you?" the pig answers with one giant word.
To say the least it's funny. But here's where the story takes an interesting spin.
The frogs do not laugh. Not at all. Instead, they are confused, suspicious and angry. (One of them even shows a mouthful of shark-like teeth.)
The frogs wonder if the pig is trying to be a frog. Or perhaps, the pig is making fun of them. When the other woodland creatures poke fun at the frogs, a large brouhaha begins.
Only the wise old beetle can bring peace to the situation. With common-sense instinct, he suggests the true reason why the pig has come to the pond.
"Ribbit!" is not a complicated book. In fact, at first reading it seems a bit thin -- if not bizarre. After all, illustrator Poly Bernatene chooses to combine an unexpected variety of styles.
He uses soft collage and textured paper to create the background. But he uses a cartoon-like style to draw the animals. Even the animal combinations are jolting. The group of woodland creatures includes a tropical parrot and a large yellow goose.
But the value of "Ribbit!" is the takeaway. Kids, with the help of an older reader, will understand that the reaction to someone who is different doesn't have to be laughter, suspicion or anger.
Just like the beetle, they'll find that a common-sense perspective can create understanding. And possibly, a step toward friendship.
"Ribbit!" by Rodrigo Fogueira. Illustrated by Poly Bernatene. Knopf, 2013. 40 pp.