Summer of the Toad (2019)
By DM Scharwtz
And what a task it is.
Mr. Toadley Smith of Toad’s Hollow is a “jolly but eccentric man toad with a talent for finding trouble or creating trouble when there was none to be had.” He’s also obsessed with chemicals, experiments, blowing stuff up, and sarcasm. The latter is a thing of beauty.
Toadley reluctantly hires an orphaned mouse named Vernon as a laboratory assistant. Later, Toadley grudgingly deems Vernon a fine mouse when Vernon saves his life. But when the plucky little mouse is kidnapped by the renegade Four Fingered Raccoon clan, Toadley and his lady toad friend, Maria Ponderly, hop off to rescue Vernon.
Their grand adventure includes evading ravenous Hognose snakes who are expert at bureaucratic bumbling (who knew?), escaping bloodthirsty lisping bats, enduring the plucky but inept 99th Royal Fusiliers, and surviving their most hair-raising encounter of all: a human child with grubby fingers and a glass jar.
Hotly pursued by pretty much everyone, Toadley faces a double-challenge during the final climatic battle: He must not only outwit multiple enemies simultaneously, but Toadley must also battle his own shameful secret first. Will the toads’ daring rescue mission succeed or wind up killing them both?
Great green globs of algae!
This captivating, imaginative romp features writing that’s jolly and quick. It also has a warm, homespun flavor reminiscent of E.B. White. Generously dosed with wry wit, the prose is clever and colorful. It’s chockful of memorable phrases like, “The moment lingered like a head cold” and “His pride was running a low grade fever.” The plot is redolent with memorable characters like Snidely Axelrod, Grand Theft Otto, Mabel Syrup, T. Benictus Smith, and Finnegan Dawdler the box turtle.
Indeed, the scene in chapter eight in which Toadley acts as his own legal counsel while defending himself and Maria from a bunch of voracious Hognose snakes is worth the price of admission alone. (I laughed so hard!)
But then, all’s fair in ponds and puddles.
Young readers and the young at heart will fall in love with this enchanting story and its loquacious hero as they discover that sometimes a keen wit, an expansive vocabulary and a burlap rucksack are invincible. Or pretty darn close.
Never underestimate a toad. Or this delightful story. I can’t wait for more!
Our Rating: 3.5
Our review first appeared on Reedsy/Discovery.