Frog Girl

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.

The chief’s daughter races through the burning forest to return the stolen frogs to the lake

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!


Storm Boy

Ms. Hong (now at Strathcona Library) recommended this title when our reading group started reading Aboriginal Literature. Storm Boy by Paul Owen Lewis is a definite favourite that sparked lots of discussion, questions and great writing.

We loved how this book was so mysterious. We had as many questions at the end as we did throughout the pages, yet we seemed to know something more. Such a visually powerful book that has won many awards including Best Book of the Year from the Pacific Northwest Book Award. Storm Boy introduces us to the Killer Whale people who seem to inhabit an undersea world. This book follows the tradition of the people of the Pacific Northwest Coast (Haida, Tlingit and others). Stories from this area tell of individuals in parallel worlds where animals seem to live in human form.

I provided some sentence starts to assist students in organizing their written responses. We had such a dramatic story to respond to!

  • I was impressed when . . .
  • I was shocked by . . .
  • I am still wondering . . .
  • It was incredible when . . .

Some excerpts from out written responses that needs to be shared:

Ricky: I was shocked when I saw the boy get carried by a storm. Then he was in a nation’s island. There were four killer whales. The chief one was big. They ate fish that weren’t cooked or cut. The killer whales could talk. Then the boy missed his original home. I was surprised because the killer whales knew that he missed his home.

Gary: I was impressed when he went on the whale to get back home and when he got back, his Mom said: “You’ve been gone a year!” Then they celebrated because of his return.

Catriona: I am still wondering if time goes slower in the Killer Whale people’s village.

Truman: I am wondering if the chief’s son can turn into an orca whale because he went to the orca people’s place

Storm Boy by Jenny

Jenny was inspired to draw this gorgeous picture.

She writes: “There was a boy that went fishing and then a storm came and hitted the boy and he got pushed away from his village. He landed in another village and he saw big people. They invited the boy and they danced around the fire and did their welcome song. Then the boy missed his mom and dad and the big people made the boy appear back in his village.”