Jane Clarke's Only Tadpoles Have Tails
Illustrated by Jane Gray
Children's book review by Jane Finch
A story about peers at different stages of physical development
The setting for Only Tadpoles Have Tails is in the rainforest and the main character is a treefrog called Kicky.
The other frogs make fun of Kicky because he still has his tail. They call him a tadpole because he won’t become a true frog until he has lost his tail.
Kicky has one good friend, Hoppy, who doesn’t tease him about his tail.
One of the difficulties in playing frog games with a tail is that it tends to get in the way. When playing frogball, for example.
Kicky becomes very sad because he feels different from the other treefrogs.
Other friends rally round and try to pull the tail off, but by mistake Kicky and one of the other treefrogs, Croaker, are catapulted into the middle of a lake. Now Croaker tends to be a bit of a bully, but he forgets about that as he finds himself a long way from the shore.
As they are splashing around, piranhas arrive, searching for a meal. Kicky can swim faster because of his tail, and rather than save himself he distracts the piranhas so Croaker can reach the lily pad safely. When Kicky finally reaches safety he finds his tail has gone. He has become a full-fledged frog, and a hero, too.
This book, part of the Flying Foxes series, provides additional activities and information. As well as looking at the life cycle of the frog, Only Tadpoles Have Tails goes on to explain about life in the rainforest, and that frogs’ tails don’t drop off, but in fact shrink.
There is also a page on author Jane Clarke, as well as one on illustrator Jane Gray, which asks questions children may ask, such as “How did you get the idea for this story?”
The illustrations in this book are full of colour and movement. Jane Gray used acrylics because she particularly liked the bright colours that they offer.
I really like this story. It deals with life issues such as friendships, fitting in, being different, and bullying. It also deals with the importance of teamwork, as the frogs try to help Kicky get rid of his tail.
The reader empathises with Kicky as he becomes sad and starts to hate his tail because it is the one thing that makes him different from the other frogs. This would be a good discussion point with parent and child. Things that might make us different such as colour of hair or skin, or being short or tall, or fat or thin.
The author makes a nice comment, too. She says she always wanted to roller skate on one leg when she was a child, but could never do it. A nice comparison to the storyline.
Only Tadpoles Have Tails is a good book for early readers. It is 45 pages but some of those are double page illustrations with just a few words.
I would suggest a parent read this through with their child to open the discussion points, and then let the child read through the book himself or herself.
Read more of Jane's book reviews.
More books about bullying.
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