Series: Their Side of the Story
Published by B&H Publishing on June 2015
Genres: Children's, Bible Stories
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In this installment of Their Side of the Story, Jones and Schmidt team up to talk about not being selfish. Unfortunately, this book and the lesson fall flat. Maybe it's just me being overanalytical, but I think Frog has a good reason to be upset!
Ever had a terrible vacation? It couldn’t have been as bad as the frog that took an Egyptian vacation just in time for—you guessed it—The Ten Plagues. In their Have Your Heard Their Side of the Story? series, author Troy Schmidt and illustrator Cory Jones take an animal from a biblical narrative and tell the Bible story from their point of view. This always results in some lesson that can be learned.
In The Frog and the Plagues, that lesson is not to get mad or be selfish. Frog (our unnamed protagonist) is quite rightfully angry at the mess his vacation becomes but soon learns that God is orchestrating events for his own purposes. He concludes his vacation by being happy that God is with him wherever he goes.
Of all the stories in the Their Side of the Story series, this one is the weakest. First, the lesson learned—to not get angry or be selfish—could have been powerfully tied into Pharaoh’s emotions toward the Israelites. Schmidt hints at the connection, but in a children’s book, subtlety is not your friend.
Second, I’m not convinced I agree with the message. Frog has legitimate reason to be upset. The freaking Ten Plagues are ruining his vacation! One of the things I think parents fail at teaching their young children is expressing negative emotions (anger, sadness, fear, etc.) in a positive way. Children need those emotions validated when those emotions are legitimate. This book downplays that, suggesting that the greater need (getting Israel out of Egypt) negates the legitimate feelings of the lesser need (Frog having a non-terrifying vacation). Or, in a child’s eyes term, the greater need (whatever the parent wants) negates the legitimate feelings of the lesser need (whatever the kid wants). That’s a dangerous thing to teach children. Now, I’m sure that’s not Schmidt’s intent and you can tell me that I’m way over-analyzing a children’s book, but it’s still there implicit and lurking in the background.
Third, Schmidt never explains why the Israelites are trying to get a “vacation” out of Egypt. From the child’s perspective, Pharaoh won’t let the Israelites take a vacation, so God sends plagues. That’s a pretty harsh God. I understand the desire to shield children from evil, but this inadvertently sets God up as rather petulant and petty.
Schmidt does a great job on the other books in the series, but this one falls flat for me.