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Cute Review of Anna & Froga in School Library Journal's Good Books for Kids Blog!

Updated November 7, 2013


"Review: Anna & Froga: I Dunno…What Do You Want to Do?"
By J. Caleb Mozzocco
School Library Journal, AUGUST 6, 2013

"In format, the new Anna & Froga book resembles a cross between a children’s picture book and a comic book, with a hard cover, a big, almost 8 x 10 inch size, and captioned, painted illustrations following each of its seven comic-strip stories.
That also happens to describe the content pretty well.
The title characters are a little girl with severe, brunette bangs and her friend, a large frog wearing red rain boots (I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is Anna and which is Froga). Their circle of playmates include Ron, a cat, Christopher, a large earth worm, and Bubu, a dog that looks like Ricard’s cover version of a Richard Scarry dog. The charming stories they star in mainly revolve around their different play activities, including making a dance video and, later, a movie, or playing tennis or cards, or going to a lake.
The humor comes from the generally gentle personality clashes between the friends, mostly centered around the persnickety and somewhat bossy Bubu, although Anna’s child-like selfishness and Ron’s lack of patience with the others lead to some of the better gags (as little-kid friendly as the book’s stories are, these friends can be a bit acid-tongued, and they bust on one another like real friends are wont to do).
It’s Ricard’s artwork that’s most likely to grab the reader’s eye, whatever her age, and linger in his mind.
The various character designs are all quite striking, the strangeness of the anthropomorphic animals accentuated by their everyday surroundings, which only Anna seems to belong to. In the comics, they are rendered in a very thin line, with wiggl-bordered panels as slim and dashed-off looking as the handwritten dialogue in the bubbles. The settings and backgrounds are filled with little details, even if they aren’t realistically rendered, and Ricard’s use of bright, bold color is quite judiciously employed.
There’s a lot of white left on the page—Anna’s skin and Ron’s fur are as white as the paper the comics are printed on, and large portions of the background are generally left white (the walls and parts of the floor in their house, for example, are white, and several of the stories are set outside in the snow. The other characters—green Froga, pink Christopher, brown Bubba—pop off the page, as do important objects and props within the various comics.
Each story is followed by a two-page painting,in which the characters are all more colorful and given a more solid presence and rougher texture. These function sort of like “extras” to the story that just preceded it. In the first comic, for example, Anna and friends are trying to make a dance video to win a contest. It’s followed by a two-page painted sequence entitled “The Moves,” in which we see Froga and Christopher demonstrating The Bridge, The Skater, Saturday Night and the other dance moves that apparently made up the dance routine.
This is the second of French animator and cartoonist Ricard’s Anna & Froga collection to be translated and published in North America, following last year’s Wanna Gumball? Hopefully it won’t be the last."
 
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

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Anna and Froga: I Dunno, What Do You Want to Do?




  Boing Boing loves Anna and Froga's "quietly quirky sense of humor"

Updated January 15, 2013


Anna and Froga: Wanna Gumball? -- funny kids' picture book
Mark Frauenfelder
Thu, Dec 6, 2012

I love Richard Scarry books, and so do my kids. He's got a quietly quirky sense of humor that reveals itself as you go through his oeuvre. Anna & Froga, by Anouk Ricard, has the same kind of humor as Scarry, but with the volume cracked up a little more. This collection of comicbook-like stories feature Anna and her animal friends on mini-adventures that include duplicitousness, frustration, greed, fool's errands, and trickery.

In one story Froga (a frog) finds a pink gumball on the ground and gives it to Anna. She pops it into her mouth and complains that it tastes funny. Froga admits he gave her a chewed-up piece of gum. Anna is so shocked she accidentally swallows the gum. A moment later Christopher the pink worm (a dead ringer for Scarry's Lowly Worm) comes along and asked the pair if they've seen his cousin Sammy. "He looks like me only smaller. Oh, he also smells like berries and he's usually curled up in a ball napping." Whoops.

This is a delightful book that most kids will enjoy, because even though the setting is fantasy, it deals with the real kinds of emotions and situations that kids experience every day.

Anna & Froga
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




Comic Book Resources talks with D&Q Creative Director Tom Devlin about D&Q's Enfant line

Updated January 14, 2013


D&Q'S DEVLIN BRINGS "THE MOOMINS," "PIPPI LONGSTOCKING" TO THE STATES
Wed, September 26th, 2012 at 12:58pm

Tom Devlin worked at comic book stores before founding Highwater Books in 1997. The publisher made a splash at Comic-Con International in San Diego that year when they distributed -- for free -- "Coober Skeber" #2, which was promoted as "The Marvel Comics Benefit Issue" and featured many independent cartoonist tackling Marvel heroes, including, most famously, the "Hulk vs. Rain" short story by James Kolchalka, which the cartoonist later redrew for Marvel.

Highwater went on to publish books, comics and prints from cartoonists including Megan Kelso, Brian Ralph, John Porcellino, James Kolchalka and Matt Madden before closing up shop in 2004. Devlin later joined Drawn and Quarterly where he currently acts as their Creative Director. This month, D&Q releases two new projects Devlin is overseeing, "Pippi Longstocking" and "The Moomins," both of which are part of D&Q's Enfant line for children of all ages.

CBR News spoke with Devlin via e-mail to discuss the new titles, the fifteenth anniversary of Highwater Books, and look ahead to the other books he's overseeing at D&Q in the coming months.CBR News: Tom, let's start by talking about the Pippi Longstocking comics D&Q is publishing. This is the first time these three books have been published in English. When were they made and who was behind them?


Drawn and Quarterly Creative Director Tom Devlin oversees the "Pippi Longstocking" titles for the publisher, including this month's "Pippi Moves In"
Tom Devlin: They were initially published in the late 1950s in a Swedish children's magazine called "Klumpe Dumpe" (Humpty Dumpty). I'm unsure how long they might have been out of print but recently the rights holders, Rabén & Sjögren, issued reprints and I spotted the Finnish version while attending a comic convention in Helsinki. That's my favorite thing about traveling to these other conventions -- you get a chance to dig through piles of comics, you meet the cartoonists that you've maybe just seen a few images from on the internet, you just get a chance to see things you wouldn't normally see.

Who was Pippi, because I'll be honest I have only the vague image of a redhead with pigtails and I know that "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" author Stieg Larsson described Lisbeth as a grown up version of Pippi.

I hadn't heard that Stieg Larsson quote but Pippi is certainly a household name in Scandinavia, so that makes sense. She's a headstrong -- and body strong -- 9 year-old who lives in a house alone and pretty much does what she wants much to the consternation of the very square neighbor children, Tommy and Annika. She's definitely one of those great proto-feminist characters from children's literature. Pippi has a great kind of rugged individualist approach to everything she does. She doesn't have an ounce of fear. And yes, she has red hair which she wears in pigtails, as well as prominent freckles, and mismatched socks.

Your other project right now is publishing new editions of "The Moomins" comic strip in color. I know we're both fans, but for people who don't know, who are the Moomins?

We've joked that we'll just keep sending me to different countries and I'll find the comics for the most famous children's character available and bring them back here to North America. While Pippi's kind of the most famous character in Sweden, the Moomins are the most popular in Finland. Tove Jansson wrote a series of chapter books in her native Swedish (there's a population of Swedish speaking Finns) which slowly gained in popularity in Finnish and English as well. Enough so that a British newspaper approached Tove about doing a comic strip. That's the short version of the story -- the full version will be in a book we're publishing later this year called "Moomin Every Day."

So, the Moomins themselves are a family of hippo-like trolls who live in a country home and lead a kind of free-spirited, relaxed lifestyle. Tove came form a family of artists (Mom was an illustrator and Dad was a sculptor) and there's a real sense that they lived a kind of bohemian lifestyle. This worldview clearly influenced the creation of the Moomins. The Moominpoppa is kind of a dreamer who spins yarns about his globe-trotting adventures and Moominmomma is a loving but pragmatic woman and Moomintroll or Moomin is their son. They're the focal point for a whole community of off-the-wall characters who live in Moomin Valley. They're surrounded by a bunch of schemers, hangers-on, dreamers, and dedicated friends. The stories have a kind of sardonic wit, not quite out and out satire, but there's a dark edge in this otherwise idyllic world.


After success publishing "The Moomins" in hardcover, Devlin wanted to expand the audience with color TPBs
You've been publishing "The Moomins" in oversize hardcover volumes for a few years now. Why did you want to publish them in a new format?

I would say that I wanted to expand the audience for these comics. We did really well with them here in North America and the UK and we sold our version to a number of European countries and I just started to think "how can we get more of these books in people's (kids') hands." I had heard from a number of people who said that their children MUCH preferred color comics to black and white comics and it dawned on me that we should try coloring these strips and make a less expensive softcover version that kids could carry around in their backpacks. So we colored a few strips and presented them to Tove's niece, Sophia, who runs the licensing of the Moomin Characters, and she loved it so we moved forward. Those books are just hitting stores now but I'm really excited because the strips really hold color well. I think people will be shocked how beautifully they turned out.

Are there other books aimed at kids, or at least a younger audience, in the works for the D&Q Enfant line?

Well, we are taking it slow. We have the collections of the Moomin strips, the two Moomin picture books ("The Book About Moomin, Mymble, and Little My" and "Who Will Comfort Toffle?"), the forthcoming three book Pippi series, a reprint of Brian Ralph's "Cave-In," and the Doug Wright "Nipper" paperbacks for now and there are plans for things we can't talk about yet. All along we've thought that we'll just take our time and build the line up and not rush. Recently, we published the first volume of Anouk Ricard's "Anna & Froga," "Want a Gumball?", and we'll continue to release that series. Finding Anouk Ricard's work was another lucky discovery -- I was at the local library and my kids were playing with some neighbors and I wandered away into the stacks and found these amazing French kids comics. The stories concern a group of friends who prank and needle each other but are still friends and the situations are just hilarious.

Just to go back in time, fifteen years ago you started a small publisher, Highwater Books, and you made a splash at San Diego in 1997 with "Coober Skeber" #2 -- the Marvel Comics benefit book. What were you trying to do? What made you want to be a publisher?

At that time I was working at the Million Year Picnic in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was deeply entrenched in the small press and mini-comics movement. I loved seeing all this new work that wasn't getting a wide audience and I just wanted to find ways to get it out there. I tried creating a distribution system that never got any real traction because people made such small quantities and you had to do everything by phone or more likely through writing letters to the person's P.O. Box. By the time I got new comics in I would have sold out of them at the Million Year Picnic so I would just sell them to the store for no profit. But meeting all these cartoonists got me thinking about other ways to promote their work and eventually the Marvel Benefit edition of "Coober Skeber" came out of that. It was a really aggravating undertaking but when I opened up those cases of the freshly printed books, I was done for. There was no turning back. I was going to be a publisher. And after the success of that book, people started approaching me to publish their comics and well I figured I better step up.


The plan for D&Q's Enfant all-ages line is a slow expansion featuring titles such as "Anna & Froga"
I definitely had a plan. I saw a lot of work that didn't seem to fit in to what I viewed as the professionalism of Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly. I knew that if I didn't publish this stuff then no one would. There were also some other new comics publishers coming out of the minicomics scene like Top Shelf and Alternative–and the very influential Black Eye who pre-dated us all by a little bit–and we were all pretty chummy.

By the time I had started Highwater, I had worked at two comic stores -- Newbury Comics and the Million Year Picnic -- and spent several years working at the Diamond Comics warehouse in Boston. I thought most comic book covers were an ugly muddy mess. There was so much I thought was done wrong in comics that prevented them from reaching the general public and I really wanted to change that. I focused on packaging to make more appealing objects -- I knew the comics inside those books were great but I really wanted everyone else to know.

In 2010 there was an exhibition in Boston, "Right Thing The Wrong Way: The Story of Highwater Books." Was that title a somewhat accurate summation of Highwater?

I did not like that title. I felt like it focused on the financial failure of the company over the artistic success. But when TD Sidell -- who was a former intern and good friend -- came to me with the idea, I told him he could do what he wanted but I wouldn't really be able to help because I had young kids and they were the priority. Besides TD earned a chance to try something like that show. I would have extended that blessing to many of my friends and interns because their support was instrumental in making Highwater work for those years that it worked. TD and the other folks who helped him do the show -- Greg Cook, Jef Czekaj, Brooke Corey, and Randy Chang -- did a great job though. It perfectly embodied the kind of catch-all follow your aesthetic wherever it leads you ideal that I always wanted for Highwater.

You officially announced the end of Highwater in November 2004, though by that point it had been a little while since a book was published. Now that several years have passed, what do you think of what you were able to accomplish?

Is that for me to say? I don't know. I hope Highwater was an influence on cartoonists and other publishers but you would have to ask them. I really did want people to see that anyone could be a distributor or a publisher or a designer or whatever. I'm glad I got to do it as long as I did. I'm glad that I got to promote so many great cartoonists like Ron Regé, Jr, Brian Ralph, Megan Kelso, Matt Madden, Mat Brinkman, Marc Bell, Greg Cook, James Kochalka, and John Porcellino (and others who I distributed like Jordan Crane) and writers like Camden Joy and Dan Buck to the world. I'm glad that Highwater helped me meet my beautiful wife Peggy and helped me land my dream job here at Drawn & Quarterly.


Devlin has other projects outside of his Enfant titles on his plate
You're working on a number of books besides the ones we've talked about. Are there any books coming out this year or early 2013 that you'd like to mention?

The ones that are really occupying my thoughts right now are "Beautiful Darkness" by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet and "Kitaro" by Shigeru Mizuki. Both are translated titles and I'm deep into editing them. I think "Beautiful Darkness" will be a bit of a surprise for D&Q fans so I don't want to say too much about it. "Kitaro" is probably the series that Mizuki is best know for. We're pretty excited to be getting around to publishing this work. Just so imaginative and lyrical and funny. Just really amazing adventure comics.

But there are so many. I really think that we've had such a strong five-year run, as good as any publisher in any medium. In just the past couple of months, we've published "Gloriana" by Kevin Huizenga, "Birdseye Bristoe" by Dan Zettwoch, "The Making Of" by Brecht Evens, and re-published "Cave-In" by Brian Ralph and I swear to god these are must have books -- four individual idiosyncratic cartoonists working at the peak of their powers.

We're also republishing (with new material) "Freddie Stories" by Lynda Barry and I think that book is going to blow people's minds. It's the darker Lynda Barry like in her novel "Cruddy" and I think a lot of people weren't ready for her comics to be so dark in 1999. It's just brutal,beautiful stuff.

You're a cartoonist in your own right. Are we ever going to see a Tom Devlin comic one of these years?

I'm working intermittently on something called "Nike Country" that goes back over a decade now. We'll see if I ever finish that. [Publisher] Chris Oliveros is also working on his comic "Envelope Manufacturer" and we kid each other about how long we've been working/not working on these stories.
 
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Featured artists

Tove Jansson
Anouk Ricard
Astrid Lindgren & Ingrid Vang Nyman

           Featured products

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Book One
Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?
Pippi Moves In




  Under The Radar review of Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?

Updated November 20, 2012



Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball? - Anouk Ricard
Aug 22, 2012 By J. Nisen


Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball? is so damned delightful that a review can hardly do it justice. It's perfect for kids, but the cartooning chops and clever humor should please anybody. Anybody.

Anna is a cute little girl who plays guitar and likes to paint. Froga is an anthropomorphic female frog who tromps around in red rain boots. While Froga, from this first volume, appears to be the more mischievious of the two, both can frankly be obnoxious, as can their friends Pupu (a dog, likely the worst of the lot) and Ron (a cat). Ricard's storytelling is unquestionably some of the clearest, cleanest, and most impactful in comics; the art is adorable and fun, more likely to make you smirk than get all mushy.

This is translated from the original French volumes; apparantly there are several more and we may be lucky enough to see those stateside too at some point. With all the consternation about how the comics industry caters to an increasingly aging fan base and the related lack of a new audience, let alone ideas, Anna & Froga could well be the solvent. Get 'em while they're young, and get 'em with the best merging of art, storytelling, approachability, and humor available. This kids' comic is not just for kids. (www.drawnandquarterly.com)

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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




Anna & Froga praised by Under The Radar

Updated November 20, 2012


Under the Radar
Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?
Drawn & Quarterly
Anouk Ricard

Aug 22, 2012 Web Exclusive By J. Nisen

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball? is so damned delightful that a review can hardly do it justice. It's perfect for kids, but the cartooning chops and clever humor should please anybody. Anybody.

Anna is a cute little girl who plays guitar and likes to paint. Froga is an anthropomorphic female frog who tromps around in red rain boots. While Froga, from this first volume, appears to be the more mischievious of the two, both can frankly be obnoxious, as can their friends Pupu (a dog, likely the worst of the lot) and Ron (a cat). Ricard's storytelling is unquestionably some of the clearest, cleanest, and most impactful in comics; the art is adorable and fun, more likely to make you smirk than get all mushy.

This is translated from the original French volumes; apparently there are several more and we may be lucky enough to see those stateside too at some point. With all the consternation about how the comics industry caters to an increasingly aging fan base and the related lack of a new audience, let alone ideas, Anna & Froga could well be the solvent. Get 'em while they're young, and get 'em with the best merging of art, storytelling, approachability, and humor available. This kids' comic is not just for kids. (www.drawnandquarterly.com)
 
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




  The North Adams Transcript praises "Anna and Froga"

Updated August 27, 2012


Children’s books that behave badly

By John Seven
North Adams Transcript
August 10, 2012

“Anna and Froga: Want a Gumball?” by Anouk Ricard (D and Q)
The multi-talented French cartoonist Anouk Ricard — also a filmmaker and musician — has several volumes featuring these characters available in her home country, and this English-language debut will not only alert you to what we’ve
been missing out on, but make you demand access to the other volumes immediately. Ricard mixes a child-like playfulness in her characters and situations with a grown-up sense of satire that creates little stories that say so much. Anna is a girl, Froga is a frog and Bubu the dog and Ron the Cat are their friends, with a couple worms on the edge of their circle, and Ricard’s stories about them revolve mix moments of absurdity in with a character study of sorts, on such a level that a kid will love the dialogue and action immediately and probably find it all sticks with them well into adulthood, like much of the best children’s literature. Some of the highlights include a search for a missing worm, the friends’ encounter with a justifiably annoyed tuna at the beach and a disastrous art opening that examines the rage induced by plagiarism — and all are hilarious and charming.
In between stories, Richard offers more fleshed-out illustrations of her characters in related incidents that just adds depth to the book, both in art richness and character.


Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




Vice features Anna & Froga

Updated July 25, 2012


Anouk Ricard
Anna & Froga
Enfant
Nick Gazin

Good graciousness, what a comic! This is a 40-page hardcover comic full of very funny comics that are appropriate for kids but have a sophisticated sense of humor that adults will like whether they are parents or not. It's basically like a European BD volume, like the Smurfs or Tintin. The main character is a human girl of indeterminate age named Anouk. She pals around with a frog in red boots named Froga, a cat named Ron, and a dog named Bubu. Althouh this sounds ilke it could be the setup of a bland children's book, all of the characters have defined personalities with strengths and flaws and are all basically likable. The art is just flat-out beautiful and there's something about the way Froga is drawn that is hilarious every time you see her. This book collects a bunch of comics that are usually only a few pages long and then some samples of the characters' art and things like that. If you like Leslie Stein, Marc Bell, or Ines Estrada, get this. If you don't like those people then you should still get this. This is my essential book of the week. It's great. Get it.
 
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




  Anna & Froga in the A.V. Club

Updated July 25, 2012


Comics Panel
By Noel Murray
July 23, 2012

Anouk Ricard’s Anna & Froga: Wanna Gumball? (D&Q) belongs to the class of recent children’s comics that look and feel like they could’ve been created by kids—albeit clever, precociously talented kids. Anna & Froga is one of the best of the bunch: a genuinely funny, unshakably adorable set of stories about a creative little girl and her mischievous animal pals, as they paint, sing, and play pranks. Ricard punctuates the comics portions of the book with full-page illustrations that look like they were copied directly from an old picture book, adding to the overall feel of inspired, imaginative play. It’s hard to explain exactly what Anna & Froga is; the best comparison might be the anarchic Belgian animated puppetoon A Town Called Panic, crossed with a yellowed hardback that’s been sitting on some cool grandma’s shelf since the ’50s…
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




Anna & Froga featured on Comic Book Resources

Updated July 24, 2012


What Are You Reading? with Kevin Church

Chris Mautner

...Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball by Anouk Ricard — This is an amusing collection of short comics by Ricard involving a little girl and her animal friends — a frog, a worm, a cat and a dog. They’re all a little cruel to each other, which keeps the material from being too treacly. Actually, this reminded me of nothing so much as a G-rated version of Matt Furie’s Boys Club comics. Take out the drug and poop references, and the psychedelic asides, and the similarities seem more apparent. Overall, it’s a cute, funny book that kids will appreciate, but not one that lingers long in the memory after reading it...
 
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




  PASTE magazine calls Anna & Froga "charming and weird"

Updated July 19, 2012


Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up


July 12, 2012

BY HILLARY BROWN, SEAN EDGAR AND GARRETT MARTIN
PASTE magazine

Anna and Froga: Want a Gumball?
by Anouk Ricard
Drawn + Quarterly, 2012
Rating: 7.6

Translated from the French-Canadian, this goofy children’s book has an Ikea aesthetic and the heart of something much darker. Like many of the best narratives aimed at young readers, it doesn’t waste any time preaching to its audience. Ricard isn’t interested in lessons, and although some characters get what’s coming to them, that’s as far as it goes. All five of its cast (Anna, Froga the frog, Bubu the dog, Christopher the worm, and Ron the cat) are self-centered, prideful, rude, oblivious, lazy, or gluttonous more often than not, but, as with Larry David’s universe, the results are better this way. Multi-page storylines alternate with two-page spreads rendered in a less flat fashion, but all feature Ricard’s bright primary colors and manage to be cute without being cutesy. They also make sense, which is where she distinguishes herself from Ben Jones, whose work can look similar. Charming and weird, this book should attract a small, fierce following. (HB)
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?




"Anna and Froga: Wanna Gumball?" in the San Francisco Book Review

Updated June 21, 2012


Anna and Froga: Wanna Gumball?"
Reviewed by Margo Orlando Littell
June 14 2012

In this series of comic-book-style vignettes, a little girl named Anna and her sidekick, a frog named Froga, encounter all manner of wacky situations where things are rarely what they seem. In “The Gumball,” Froga gives Anna a gumball he finds on the ground, but the pair soon realize with horror that Anna might have swallowed a worm—or at least a worm’s dirty sock. In “The Present,” Bubu the dog gives Froga what seems to be a beautiful painting for her birthday—only to have the truth of the painting’s “genius” revealed. Silly songs and good-natured insults abound.

With an army of animal friends including Christopher the worm, Ron the cat, and Bubu the dog, Anna and Froga move through their world buffered by friendship and unbothered by the white lies, confusion, and awkwardness that are part of any young group of companions. The short tales are amusing though somewhat lacking in substance. Coupled with childlike illustrations, the whole volume may leave readers wishing for a bit more sophistication on either a narrative or visual level.


 
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Featured artist

Anouk Ricard

           Featured product

Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball?





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