Letter from the Editor: Frog and Toad

Happy Birthday, Frog and Toad! This year marks the 50th anniversary of Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel. HarperStacks sat down (virtually!) with Tamar Mays, a HarperCollins Executive Editor, to discuss the longevity of the books and the important messages they share about friendship, especially in a time when relying on our support systems is more important than ever.

HarperStacks: Happy 50 years of Frog and Toad! With new editions of our favorite amphibian friends coming out this year, what qualities of friendship do you recognize most in these books?

Tamar Mays: I recently worked on Frog and Toad: A Little Book of Big Thoughts. It’s a lovely gift book with all the most memorable lines from the stories. As I was pondering how to to organize the quotes I searched “what are the qualities of friendship?” There’s a good listing on the Psychology Today site that illustrated what is so special about Frog and Toad for me.

Being a good friend has a lot to do with integrity but what comes to the forefront of my mind specifically is being dependable. I think of Benny King’s song “Stand By Me” which is a total anthem right now. It says a lot about the friendship of Frog and Toad. They are so there for each other in all kinds of weather and in all kinds of times. Good times, bad times, hilarious times, lonely times...they are loyal and so dependable through whatever is happening.

Another key trait is being trustworthy, trusting each other, and beyond that, being able to share your authentic self with your friend. Frog and Toad have very different personalities and they have a friendship that creates space for that. They relish all of each other in their friendship.

Another is honesty. They’re very open with each other, and they always say what they’re feeling.

Another key aspect of friendship is caring. Frog and Toad have tremendous empathy for each other. But it’s not always about getting it “right.” It’s about trying to understand what’s going on with the other person and mostly getting it right. When Frog understands that Toad is feeling wistful because he’s never gotten a letter, Frog makes it happen. But even when they miss some of the cues, it doesn’t matter. In Days with Frog and Toad, Toad goes to Frog’s house and sees a note on the door. The note says, “Dear Toad, I’m not at home. I went out. I want to be alone.” and Toad starts to get very anxious, wondering why Frog wants to be alone Toad needn’t have worried as Frog was actually meditating on how fortunate he was to have such a wonderful friendship. But even though Toad misunderstood what Frog was feeling, it didn’t matter, because what was important was that he showed up.

Another great trait of friendship is being able to share the humor in life. One great example is in the story “Cookies” as Frog and Toad throw out ideas of how not to eat all the cookies. There’s this palpable warmth that makes them such good friends. They relish doing things together and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge adventure. It could be planting seeds and watching them grow or just having a cup of tea together. The last story in Days with Frog and Toad ends with the line “they were two close friends sitting alone together.” I think that says so much about their friendship.

HS: Right, I think especially now when everything has kind of come to a standstill and our lives are more simple, I think we can turn to Frog and Toad and say, “Life can be simple but enjoyable and we can appreciate those moments.” In a time when many of us have had to change our day-to-day, how can Frog and Toad teach us to enjoy the simple moments?

TM: Yes, there’s a lot of appreciation for all those little moments. I think they encourage us to notice the small, lovely times that sometimes get drowned out by the noise of our busy lives. They teach us to relish the first glorious days of spring. One of my favorite stories is “The Kite.” It reminds us about being encouraging, having patience, persevering when things are frustrating, and the sweetness of a hard-won success—like managing to get a kite up in the air.

HS: What do you believe has kept them so popular for 50 years?

TM: A lot of things. Arnold Lobel got friendship so right. He got humanness so right. Frog and Toad are so different from each other. They’re very human and by no means perfect and incredibly good friends. The books are beautifully written and illustrated. I had read the books to my son when he was young and then re-read them many years later when I came to HarperCollins. I was blown away by how fresh they are. The writing is funny, spare, warm, and honest. The stories feel timeless because they are all about deeply human feelings and concerns. The world of Frog and Toad is a world without devices, and counterintuitively, I think that’s another reason why they don’t feel dated.

HS: I think we can learn a lot from them. In a time when we can’t see our friends face to face, what would Frog and Toad want us to tell our friends?

TM: That there are a lot of ways you can connect even if you can’t be together. You can make up a story for your friend, or you can paint them a picture. You can cheer someone up from afar. When Toad confesses he’s never gotten a letter, Frog writes him a letter and mails it to him (via Snail mail). There are great ways to connect, even when we are being alone, together!

Celebrate 50 Years of Frog and Toad with these newest editions!

Frog and Toad: A Little Book of Big Thoughts
Frog and Toad: A Complete Reading Collection
Frog and Toad Are Friends 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition

Arnold Lobel (1933–1987) illustrated many wonderful children’s books but is most beloved for his Frog and Toad stories, including the first one, Frog and Toad Are Friends, published in 1970. The books have garnered much acclaim, including a Caldecott Honor for Frog and Toad Are Friends and a Newbery Honor for Frog and Toad Together. These were followed by Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad.