Author: Frann Preston-Gannon
Publisher: Templar Publishing
Details: paperback, £6.99, 40 pages
Frann Preston-Gannon’s latest picture book, In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon, is a colourfully illustrated story with an important message – a message that was not lost on four- and five-year-olds.
The little frog enjoys singing by the light of the moon. But one evening he realises that singing solo is not much fun, so off he goes on an adventure through the swamp to find some company. On his journey, he discovers many different creatures whose voices, added to his own, improve the swamp song.
However, the little frog is still not happy, and feels that the song is not complete and still not quite right. Then he discovers a tiny firefly, who at first doesn’t want to join the frog’s chorus because he thinks his small voice is unimportant and won’t be heard. The frog convinces him that his unique little sound is just as important as all the others’ voices, and that together they can create a marvellous sound.
The rhyme and repetitive structure of the book make it an enjoyable story to read aloud, and many of the children started to join in with the repeated refrain as it became more familiar to them. They listened intently throughout, and their faces lit up when the firefly joined in with the song and started to shine brightly.
As soon as I finished reading, the children clapped whole-heartedly, but with this story it was accompanied by a chorus of “Awwwww”. One little boy declared loudly: “What a lovely story!”
From a teaching perspective, this book would be a perfect lead into PSHE lessons about equality and citizenship or building self-esteem. It could be used to highlight the importance of accepting difference: in the story, all the animals have different voices and sounds, but that’s what helps to make the song so special.
The story also offers ample opportunity to discuss different vocabulary with Early Years or key stage 1 pupils. Words like “miniature”, “hullabaloo” and “unique” are likely to need further explanation.
Classes following a thematic approach could use the book to accompany science lessons about animal life cycles. At the moment I have frogspawn in our Curiosity Cube, and I’ve placed In the Swamp alongside non-fiction books about tadpoles and frogs, so that children can revisit it independently. They often do.
Casey Lynchey is EYFS lead and Reception teacher at Holcombe Brook Primary School in Bury, Lancashire
“It was nice and kind for the frog to let the bug join in, because he didn’t think his voice was pretty but it was.”
“I didn’t like it when the fly was sad – it made me feel a bit upset.”
“I liked the bit where they all sang at the end, because they are all friends together. The frog made the bug happy because he was nice to him.”
“I liked when the frog was singing. I like frogs you know because they jump high.”
(Arthur had another look at the book independently later in the day and he brought it to me to show me that he had noticed the firefly on all of the pages at the beginning of the book, just watching the frog and the other animals. He said: “I think he is lonely because he has no friends.”)
“The bug is so pretty. I liked when he was shining.”
“I don’t like the moon because it was too bright. It looked like a sun, because a sun is brighter than a moon. So that moon was a bit too silly and bright.”
“I love the frog doing his tune on the guitar. The pictures are so colourful – I love all of the colours.”
“I thought the crocodile would eat the frog up, because he has big sharp teeth.”
“I like the frog playing his tune, and I like him being kind to the fly, and he is good because he let all the others join in, even the fly.”
“The frog is my favourite. I like when he joins in with his drum.”