THE AUTHOR: Gloria Repp, illustrated by Tim Davis
Gloria Repp grew up in the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific Northwest. It was there she learned a love for the wilderness that pervades her writing. She has taught creative writing, worked as an editor, and written books for children, teens and adults.
In addition to wilderness adventures, she enjoys flying in single-engine airplanes and has a particular fondness for owls and frogs.
“Pibbin the Small” is an excellent 91-page chapter book for children 6 years old and up. I think that it would be especially ideal for the first- through third-grader. I taught school for a long time, and the way the book is set up and reads reminds me a lot of “Frog and Toad,” an elementary school classic.
In this story, Pibbin, a small tree frog and the main character, has to find a way to help a hurt friend. He travels a long distance and takes on many perils to get the materials he needs to make his friend better. The controlled vocabulary and sentence structure are excellent, and I believe that children will enjoy this adventurous story very much.
The contents page offers an excellent study opportunity to teach how this important skill works. I have seen content page questions on countless tests over many years. For instance, can your child look at the contents”page and determine on what page chapter 3 begins or ends? This becomes a simple skill if it is explained correctly and practiced a little bit.
As a parent or an educator there is also much that you can do to enhance this story’s meaning for your child. For one thing, there is a map in the back of the book of “Friendship Bog” that could be used for working on map skills. You could easily have your child trace Pibbin’s adventures as he sets out to help his friend.
Likewise, you could do research on tree frogs and the other animals in the story. And illustrating the parts of the story that aren’t already drawn helps the children to better understand conceptually what they are reading. Besides, they usually enjoy drawing immensely.
The animals in the story also have the ability to talk and to take on human characteristics as well. This provides an excellent time to discuss quotation marks and what they mean. Quotation marks are very confusing to children. You need to get across to them that whatever is in the quotation marks is exactly what the character has said. It makes it even more confusing when an animal is saying it. You can then discuss what is real and what can and cannot happen in reality.
In this story the child reader deals with an animal that is hurt and is being taken care of just like a human being would be. Children can identify with the animals’ problems of traveling a long distance to achieve the story’s quest because they too are small and would deal similarly with such a problem if they were in this same situation.
All books contain a problem or a conflict. In this case there is a villain that has stolen what the animals need to help their friend, and they need to get it back. The child reader gets to battle the problems along with the animals as they try to prevail and to help their friend.
The illustrations in the book are black and white but gorgeously done. The lines are so clean and do a marvelous job of enhancing the telling of the story and making the adventure even more fun. I’m sure that it would not surprise you to hear that Tim Davis, the illustrator, is a longtime illustrator for Highlights Magazine, where he specializes in “Hidden Pictures.” He has also written and illustrated many more books that are listed in the back of this book if you’d like to see more of his work.
I also had the opportunity to review the second book in the series, called “The Story Shell.” It is also written by Repp and illustrated by Davis, and is equally creative, but varies the animals and solves the mystery of whether or not there is a thief in the bog. Also a chapter book, it provides similar learning opportunities for children. It takes Pibbin the tree frog on another adventure into the bog, is very involved, and is a great vehicle for developing the new characters in this story. I would give both books, or the series itself, 4.5 tiaras out of 5.
It is obvious that Gloria Repp enjoys nature. Her love for the animals enhances her writing, and her child readers can learn a great deal about tree frogs and the creatures in the bog. In fact, if you or your young one would like to learn more about Pibbin and his friends, you can find out more about frogs by going to www.gloriarepp.com. There you will have the opportunity to purchase more books that our author has written. She tells me that the third book in the series will be out in February.
This week is special because I have been given four copies of the first book in the series, “Pibbin the Small,” to give away to four lucky children. All you have to do to win a copy is to be one of the first four people to comment on this article at anitabook.com, and then to e-mail me your name and address.
I will mail the book out to the four winners immediately. If you want it mailed to your child, give me his or her name and I’ll send it straight to them. I know how getting mail can be so exciting to a child! This book is wonderful and can be read and enjoyed over and over.
Buice, a Carrollton resident, writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian. anitabook.com