Tedd Arnold's Green Wilma
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Even by picture book standards, Green Wilma is a quick read, but parents would be ill-advised to think of this 1993 book (still in print!) as insubstantial.
No, by my estimates Tedd Arnold's delightful rhymed story is the shortest "It was all a dream" tale in the history of literature!
And for that reason alone it's deserving of praise.
I'm a big fan of children's books that add a twist to the usual brand of straightforward storytelling. Arnold gives his book two significant twists - a biggie at the beginning, and an absolute game-changer at the end.
Green Wilma starts with a little girl waking up. The twist? Little Wilma is suddenly green. And that's far from the only froggish characteristic that's overcome her overnight.
Her parents are clearly surprised and not particularly pleased. But they aren't major players in this story. Wilma frog-hops out the window before they can put a crimp in her froggy plans for the day.
I mean, why would a girl want to stay in just because she happens to have turned green? Really, parents can be so uptight.
Wilma's froggish urges create chaos at school, but nothing impacts her froggish joie de vivre. In fact, when a particularly yummy looking fly catches her attention, Wilma leaves school - as unhampered by adult admonitions to do otherwise as she was when she left home only a short time earlier.
On one level, Green Wilma is a story of a child - a green child - breaking loose from adult control and being free to act on impulse. It's a joyous romp.
But you still haven't heard that final twist! (Or at least you haven't heard all of it.)
Wilma's pursuit of the fly she spied at school (on her teacher's nose, actually), leads her finally to a pond. It's here, among the marsh grasses and lily pads, that Wilma finally catches up with her yucky prey, landing in the pond with a splash.
It's that wet landing that causes Wilma to wake up. Yes, it was all a dream. But not a little girl's dream. Wilma wakes up to remember
...the words they teach to every little frog
"When you dream, be careful that you don't fall off the log.
This book delights me, and I've seen it delight children as well. The ending turns everything that preceded it on its head. The events of the book were not reality. They weren't even the imaginings of a little girl. They were the imaginings of a little frog!
I can think of no better way to keep children interested in books than by proving that stories have the capacity to surprise, and Green Wilma does this repeatedly. Arnold's bug-eyed drawings perfectly capture the shock and dismay of every human being who encounters Wilma, as well as Wilma's froggish delight in every moment of her day.
Green Wilma is a book that throws rules out the window and revels in every moment of doing so.
Webmaster's note: You can also read a review of Tedd Arnold's wonderful "Parts" books on this site.
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