When our librarian, Ms. Sheperd-Dynes, found out how much our reading group liked Storm Boy she brought us Frog Girl, also by Paul Owen Lewis. This is another title that represents the rich oral traditions of the Native people of the Northwest Coast of North America.
This story is an adventure that introduces us to Volcano Woman (also known as Frog Woman). She has the power to destroy villages if the people do not show proper respect for living creatures. (Lewis provides a detailed author’s note in the back of the book that provides very interesting information about how this story has Northwest Coast motifs of Separation, Initiation and Return. He explains that like other world mythologies, this tale has elements of what renowned scholar Joseph Campbell described as rites of passage (referring to separation, initiation and return) in the Adventure of the Hero)
In this story, the Chief’s daughter spies on two boys capturing frogs at the lakeshore. She finds one lone frog in the grass who leads her to a mysterious village under the lake. Here she meets Grandmother who is crying over her missing children. Her sadness seems to power rumblings and shaking in this underwater world. The chief’s daughter returns to the forest and her own village to find it empty but threatened by an erupting volcano. She finds a basket of frogs and races them to the lakeshore – home to Grandmother. Then the rains come and her people return. The girl tells her story as the frogs sing in the background.
Guided by Lewis’ notes in the back, I asked the students to be listening for some key elements in the story:
- disrespectful/cruel behaviour
- encountering animals who speak
- performing a heroic deed
- encountering mythological beings
Students listened incredibly attentively, pulled into the story’s powerful text and detailed visual images.
In their written responses, some students retold favourite parts, some responded to the elements I asked them to listen for and some asked questions. Some excerpts:
Jenny: The two boys left and the girl heard a voice. She went to that voice and it was a frog that said follow me. The shore opened up and the girl went inside. Then the frog turned to like a person and the girl saw a beautiful village.
Jeremiah: My favourite part of the story was when the girl saved the frogs. The two boys were being disrespectful of the frogs.
Kevin: Frog Girl and Storm Boy are quite similar because they both have a secret village.
Catriona: I’m still wondering . . . Why did the frog transform into a frog on land but transform into a woman in the water? Why did the two boys capture all the frogs?
Eddy: How can the frogs talk and transform into a human but green? How could the girl run to the lake in time to save the frogs when the volcano almost destroyed the whole forest?
Truman: Two boys were capturing frogs. This is cruel behaviour. There was a frog that spoke. That is encountering animals who speak. There was a girl who saved the frogs. That is called performing a heroic deed. There are frog people. They are called encountering mythological beings. I liked it when the girl went to another world. I am still wondering how the frog turn into people and how the people turn into frogs.
Such inspired writing! Pretty amazing for Grades 1, 2 and 3!