The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra

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The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: While it might not make the most supreme sense, this adventure for young graphic novel fans has all the bravura of Carroll with staggering inkwork.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 80 Date: November 2012
Publisher: Toon Books
ISBN: 9781935179184

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You know the drill – you are a young boy and find yourself waking up alongside your older sister, but with your beds beside the bole of a huge tree in an enchanted forest. The advice you get is straightforward, but impossible to follow, as you don't stick to the straight and simple path home that you should. As a result you find a tempting house guarded by bees who steal the words out of your mouth, hoity-toity upper class lions, angler fish on the daily commute and more.

You might as well throw in some druggy creatures on mushrooms and croquet and royalty, for you don't need me to tell you this is very much in the vein of Alice's adventures. The story is borne from something just as simple as in Carroll, and the narrative then goes on wherever the whim of the creator takes us – and it's debatable in all instances whether that doesn't go too far. This is designed to wrap up as a coming-of-age story, with the action being an instant turning point in the boy's life, which is another type of story device I've never been fond of or easy with.

But before then… While Leah and Alan are bluntly portrayed in their modest, old-fashioned nightclothes, she with a Victorian, orderly, leading attitude and he with a Tintin quiff, their world is just sumptuous. The level of detail in every panel is just mind-blowing, and this debut book for children shows Nytra has the mastery of his quill and ink format already. Take the early page, almost redundant as far as story goes, where all is established is that this is a thick, living forest – one could set a child the task of counting the leaves if you needed them quiet for a week. Shading is never given an easy option, and as bonkers as the story gets the artwork is more than a match – the action at the end, without giving anything away, is just rife with invention and craft and surprise and detail, forever detail.

So much detail is crammed on to the page that the blank white guttering between panels is reduced to below the minimum, to heighten the space of the art, which does bring me to the fact that this is slightly awkward at times to read as a graphic novel. Speech bubbles don't always appear in the right order as per regular comic grammar, and certainly at the start they don't point firmly enough at whoever is speaking, so it can be hit and miss. As a result I would recommend this wholeheartedly to those buying it for the graphic qualities, for it has an ageless wonder to the inking, but perhaps less so for the target audience – those spending their pocket money on books for perhaps the first time. Whoever it is, however, who turns to these pages, will find them most beautiful as far as black and white goes, and will easily think of an enchanted library where all those wondrous fantasies of our youth are illustrated by someone as talented as Nytra.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Lying Carpet by David Lucas is likewise black and white but full of colour and artistry.

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Buy The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra at


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