Bill Harley / Children's Book Reviews

Night of the Spadefoot Toads – OWTK Book Review

Bill Harley, yes that Bill Harley – winner of 2, count ’em 2, Grammy Awards, is also an accomplished author. When we saw him perform in Philly last year, I purchased three copies of his latest tome, Night of the Spadefoot Toads. It’s not because I thought I’d want to read it more than once. The autographed books, copies 1 & 2 anyway, served as Christmas gifts to my two 10 year old nieces. I don’t believe either of ’em have gotten around to reading it yet. It may have to wait until summertime, what with all the boring schoolwork kids are forced to do these days…blah.
The 3rd copy was for moi and I’ve finally gotten a chance to read it.

After he signed the book for me on that cool night in Philly, another audience member/customer asked me why I bought the Spadefoot Toad book (as opposed to his others). I told her that I’d read a bit about it and liked the idea of an author exploring not just a child adopting a cause, as there have been numerous books and films mining that subject, but really diving into the actual effects a headstrong passion can have on the life of a youngster. That is to say, looking at how the child’s relationships, both at home and school, weaken and, naturally, how his/her schoolwork suffers. The combination of that level of narrative depth along with Bill’s unique voice, which I already adore, made the book a must-read.

After reading the book, my initial reasons for purchasing were confirmed. Harley does a wonderful job channeling the pain and frustration of an adolescent boy who feels displaced and lonely as he navigates new surroundings and fights for an unlikely friend. For Ben Moroney, a curious, outdoorsy 5th grader, the grass was greener in the desert. There’s zero he finds redeeming about his new Massachusetts environment yet with the help of an equally out-of-place science teacher (Mrs. Tibbets), Ben discovers that hope and a love of one’s own backyard can be powerful weapons, even in the hands of a kid.

Night of the Spadefoot Toads is a remarkably enjoyable read for both youngsters and grown ups, especially those who, like Mrs. Tibbets, too often feel that they can no longer afford the luxury of hope. Ben shows us that persistance and a child-like zeal for doing-what’s-right can, if only sometimes, help overcome incredibly long odds.

The Bear, age 5, is enjoying hearing several chapters of the story each evening. The Mrs. is in the process of reading it aloud to her at bedtime, a ritual which has replaced the Bear’s previous bedtime routine of listening to Bill Harley’s amusing kiddie bedtime stories CD “The Town Around The Bend”.

Now through the end of March, to celebrate the book’s Green Earth Award and Bill’s latest Grammy Award, the official Bill Harley online merch table is offering 20% off both Night of the Spadefoot Toads and his tremendous Yes To Running! DVD and/or CD. Go there now! Support a great children’s artist and a fine man, while scoring some award winning swag for your family.

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