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Why I love frogs and what I’m doing about it…

So – I promised Rich that I wouldn’t write another book for a while. Turns out that writing a book is a lot like having a baby. It takes about nine months, and there’s a huge amount of commotion around the time that it comes out.

It’s also very draining for the loving family members who have to support you through the process. And you get terrible empty nest syndrome once it’s out and launched. And then you’re tempted to have another one…so you see, very much like a baby!

I had honestly sworn off (if you’re interested in seeing all my previous print babies, you can see them here: amazon.co.uk/ShannJones) when something amazing happened:

A frog appeared in my wildlife pond.

Now, to be fair, this was not entirely spontaneous. Actually, it was totally non-spontaneous, because our Head of Barn Jordan found the frog cowering in the barn, trying not to get trampled by the goats, and rescued it and put it into the pond. But STILL! The frog liked the pond enough to stay there. And I was thrilled.

I suppose that as a former city girl, I still get unreasonably excited about these things where nature takes over and WILDS something. It’s just so – cool. My pond isn’t really very wild – it’s just an old round cattle trough. But the fact that the frog had approved it and voted with its flippers to stay there just made me feel – happy.

I took my grandkids out and showed them the frog, and they were equally enchanted. We named the frog Suki, and made a house for him. Her? Who knows…. Anyhow, we made a staircase so Suki could get in and out, and put in loads of frog-friendly plants.

The kids became a big obsessed with Suki.

So did I. I spent a lot of time pond-gazing, trying to work out what was going on in there.

Actually it was worth watching! All kinds of X-rated activity went on in the pond…frogs locked in pairs and floating around in a 24-hour embrace called “amplexus.” During amplexus, the male fertilises the eggs externally as the female lays them, a behaviour that helps ensure successful reproduction by allowing the male to fertilise the eggs as soon as they are released. But it looks exactly like the Flying Lovers in Chagall’s ravishing painting ‘The Birthday’:

Marc Chagall The Birthday 1915 – Alamy stock photo

Anyhow, not going to lie, I got a bit obsessed with frogs. I found out all sorts of things about them – that when they swallow, their eyeballs go down into the mouths to help push the food down. True story! And did you know that frogs can breathe through their skins, as well as their lungs? And when they’re tiny tadpoles they can’t even breathe air at all – they have gills, like a fish, and develop lungs later. They are, basically, wicked.

In my frog obsession, I started thinking about frog stories. The one that immediately comes to mind is the Frog Prince. In that one, a cursed prince who’s been transformed into a frog meets a princess. He begs for her kiss to break the spell. She’s reluctant, because you know, frogs are a bit gross. But she finally obliges. The curse shatters, revealing the prince, looking all human again. Grateful, he proposes. They marry, living happily ever after. Love conquers curse in this timeless tale of transformation and redemption.

EXCEPT.

There is a really serious human-weighted prejudice here. It basically states that – it’s ok to look human. But anything else isn’t worthy of love. The prince is CURSED to look like a frog. And in order to be happy – in order to be loved – he needs to be turned back into a human. Because that’s the right way to look. The only way to be. Right?

Or maybe…not. Maybe other creatures are worthy of love too, just the way they are.

I started thinking about our human biases. It’s so easy to love animals with eyelashes, that look like us. But things that are slimy – weird-looking – strange – icky – ooky – well, not so much. When we get emotional about saving endangered species, we generally gravitate towards the ones that are cute, or magnificent, or furry.

But what about the rest of them? What about the slimy ones, the weird ones, the icky ones? Do they not need saving as well?

What about frogs? Frogs have declined by 68% in the past thirty years. The common toad could become endangered in the next ten years, unless we do something. Everyone takes frogs for granted – frog spawn in ponds is a common sign of spring – but there’s nothing assured about it. Frogs are a valuable part of the ecosystem – but they’re pretty undervalued. They’re not that pretty, or exciting. They’re a bit slimy. Easy to overlook. Hard to adore.

So I started imagining a story about humans who get turned into frogs – and like it. A story about a lovable frog. A story that would make a kid say “Wow!” when when she saw a frog, rather than “Ick!” Because we have to teach the kids to love things on this planet, so that they will work to save them. I told the story to my grandkids, Macsen, Isabella and Elis. When I heard Isabella re-telling the story to her doll, I knew I was onto something.

So I wrote the story down – about a Welsh grandmother named Mamgu and her three grandchildren. And how they find a frog in Mamgu’s Magic Garden. And what happens next…

But I don’t want to give too much away. The book that resulted – The Magic Garden Frog – is available for pre-order here: amazon.co.uk/The-Magic-Garden-Frog

It’s a true story, in the best possible way. I’m Mamgu. Macsen, Isabella and Elis are the stars of the show. Suki the Frog is real. And the Magic Garden…is really, truly magic. (All gardens are). There’s even a bit at the back of the book, to help the children in your life find their own Magic Garden.

So – we’re throwing a Save the Frogs Party at Cardigan Castle on Sun. Apr. 28th, which is International Save the Frogs Day, and you’re invited! Live music, art supplies for the kids to make their own Save the Frogs Artwork, BBQ and picnic boxes available to purchase. Come and help us celebrate the launch of my new book and help Save the Frogs!

Admission to the castle is FREE, but you MUST BOOK IN ADVANCE, as space is limited. You can book here: http://savethefrogs.eventbrite.com/

And Rich – honestly – this really is the last book.

Unless… you know….we find a hedgehog or something!

Hope to see you at the castle on April 28th –

Hugs,

Shann.x

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