Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog
By Elizabeth W. Davidson
Illustrated by Michael Hagelberg
Cheery is an endangered Chiricahua leopard frog and his story is becoming all too common: his environment makes it harder for him to survive. Told from his perspective, Cheery hatches and grows up with his siblings as previous generations have done. But Wise Old Frog warns the tadpoles about bullfrog and crayfish, invasive species that will harm them by eating them or infecting them with disease. When Cheery wakes up from his winter hibernation, all the other chiricahua leopard frogs except one are gone. Cheery and his new friend are captured and join a family of chiricahua leopard frogs at a zoo where they are cared for and ultimately released to their pond which has since been cleared of bullfrogs and crayfish.
Invasive species is becoming a major environmental issue so I’m glad to see the topic taken on in a book for young readers. The illustrations are beautiful although I expected a different habitat coming from Arizona. The author’s note has good information about conservation programs and includes websites but there is no bibliography. A few pronunciations are provided and a curriculum guide has been written by an award-winning school library media specialist. While I support conservation programs such as this one, a pro-zoo bias is evident in the narrative as Cheery and his friends are gently poured (how would they know it was gentle?) into a cement enclosure and they have no fear of their human handlers. I was also confused by bullfrogs being an invasive species at first. Non-fiction purists will object to talking animals. Those are minor drawbacks. All in all, a valuable contribution to conservation education.
This is a great class read aloud as a way to introduce environmental issues such as endangered animals, invasive species and how we can have a positive impact on the planet. The reading activities and research suggestions make this a teacher-friendly book. The binding is flimsy and will not stand up to a lot of handling without being reinforced. The author has a nice promotional video on her website that can serve as an introduction or a review: www.cheeryafrogstale.com.