Hip-Pocket Papa by Sandra Markle

43898013Lynn: We have a great friend currently serving on Notable Children’s Book committee that we get together with every month to happily discuss books. Ed Spicer often generously lends us books that we haven’t seen yet. Recently I came home with a whole stack and they were all so enticing I hardly knew where to begin. I turned our focus group loose and after they plundered the pile, they emerged with three to start with. Hip-Pocket Papa (Charlesbridge 2010) was spine to spine with two really funny looking picture books which says a lot about its appeal to young readers.

The beautiful cover shows a a close-up view of a this Australian frog with his babies sitting on and around him. The inside jacket flap shows the frog’s actual size – only as big as a thumbnail! The text begins with a male and female guarding their eggs on the leafy litter of the forest floor. When the eggs hatch, the female turns the babysitting chores over to the male and leaves. (Hmmm – now that idea has real appeal sometimes!) The little male sits quietly while the tiny tadpoles climb into pockets on his hips where they stay protected for thirty days. The little papa still has to find food, dodge predators and find the ideal location for his tiny froglets when they are ready to go out into the world on their own.

Markle writes with a lovely fluid style, telling a fascinating story while skillfully providing a lot of information about this tiny frog and its ecosystem. Answers to questions are skillfully integrated into the text in just the right places. An Animal Glossary at the end has more information about the animals and a pronunciation guide that I should have looked at earlier! Alan Marks’ watercolor illustrations are truly lovely in rich earth tones of green and brown. Our focus group was fascinated by this book and we read it very slowly, pausing a long time on each page. The vocabulary is richly descriptive but there are a lot of contextual clues for unfamiliar words. This is an outstanding book both for use in the classroom and for small frog fanciers everywhere.

Cindy: I’d never heard of a hip-pocket frog but I always like hearing about fathers who take an integral part in the raising of their children. Markle lists some resources for more information and this tribute to All-Star Animal Dads by National Geographic is great for those who want to hear about other animal dads who are actively involved in their offspring’s gestation or raising. Children often hear about droughts, floods, and other natural disasters, but it’s often hard to explain the ramifications of these events. The effects of the drought on the hip-pocket’s food supply and danger from preditors in nicely integrated with the frog’s story. It’s easy to forget just how small this frog is, but the frequent textual comparisons help keep things in perspective. The large page sizes with the close-up look at the Australian temperate rainforext and all that is going on there (even with the smallest of its inhabitants) is sure to appeal to young readers, as Lynn’s grandsons can confirm. Add this book to the growing list of favorites that leave me lusting for framed art from their pages.

nonfictionmonday1Be sure to visit Wrapped in Foil for more Nonfiction Monday posts.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "Hip-Pocket Papa by Sandra Markle"

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  1. scopenotes@gmail.com' Scope Notes says:

    Wow – the artwork looks incredible. Thanks for highlighting this one – I’ll be keeping an eye out for it!

  2. edspicer@mac.com' Ed Spicer says:


    Excellent artwork and text to match. Charlesbridge really has some excellent books this fall. This is, perhaps, my favorite of theirs. Lynn, I am very pleased the focus group thinks so highly of this one; I will let you know what my first graders think as soon as I get my book back! Cheers!

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