When I was a kid, I spent hours looking at my dad’s compilation of Little Nemo’s Adventures in Slumberland. I remember it was a large book, but not thick, full of artist Windsor McKay’s colorful and realistically rendered drawings of bizarre places and creatures. I wished I could reenter my dreams like Nemo does, continuing his adventures night after night, even though he falls out of bed at the end of each page.
When I saw The Secret of the Stone Frog, my first thought was, That looks like it was inspired by Little Nemo. Then, I opened it to the first page. Definitely Little Nemo… I leafed through and some Alice in Wonderland. So of course I brought it home.
The plot is fairly basic: siblings Leah and Alan, ages about 9 and 7, respectively, wake up in a strange forest. They get directions home from the titular stone frog, invariably stray off the path, and meet a host of strange people and animals on their way home. Some who appear to be friendly are not, and vice versa.
The art is spectacular. Nytra’s pen-and-ink drawings are delicately rendered and finely detailed. This book is well worth reading for the drawings alone. Although the plot is familiar, it’s not boring, thanks to Nytra’s imaginative host of secondary characters. There’s a subplot of approaching adulthood, as Leah’s parents want her to move to her own bedroom instead of sharing a room with Alan. On rereading with that aspect of the story in mind, it was easy to see the conflicts and events as symbolic of navigating the perils of adulthood.