Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book 32 - Dead Frog on the Porch

When I was a kid, I devoured Nancy Drew books - and when I'd caught up in the series, I read them again. And again. Much to my mother's dismay, I think Carolyn Keene is the reason I not only wanted to be a novelist, but also why I became a journalist.

I still remember, with vivid detail, the cover of my favourite Nancy Drew book - the Secret of the Glowing Eye. Crimson cover. Nancy looking kind of scared. The word CYCLOPS popping from the red glow. (It's ok to admit you Googled the title to check my accuracy...) It was the first novel that scared me (discounting Bunnicula, of course, since rabbits aren't 'real' vampires...)

It's been a while since I've read a Nancy Drew, but all of the characters came back to me while I read Jan Markley's middle-grade book Dead Frog on the Porch. Even before I met this Alberta-author, I was desperate to read her novel - isn't that a brilliant title? It just begs to be read!

Her young twin sleuths - Cyd and Jane - emulate their hero perfectly. In fact, I think their unofficial motto might be: What would Nancy do? Snippets of classic Nancy Drew trivia made their way smoothly into the text. I remember Ned, and Bessie, and George, and Nancy's cool car, that has apparently changed with the modern rewrites. Jan took me through a wonderful (and often funny) walk down memory lane.

In this first Megabyte Mystery, Syd and Jane are on a quest to learn why someone is genetically modifying frogs into giants. In the opening scene, Cyd steps on her sister's pet frog, Frogzilla - hence the brilliant title - and the ensuing theme. There's a great chapter where Jan describes the larger-than-normal amphibians that had me rolling with laughter.

Although this is Jan's first book, there's much to admire. The plot is fast-paced and filled with great information for young readers. Jan's also included a great "conversation guide" for teachers who might want to use the book in the classroom. I can see where it fits with many subjects, including science, language arts, and health.

Throughout the book - and I suspect the series - the twins maintain a blog. Many of the posts are written in Haiku, a form of poetry I've never really been able to wrap my head around. It's well done here, and if young readers are paying attention, these blog posts contain clues to the mystery. (And yeah, I figured it out fast...but I'm a *little* older than her ideal reader.)

Although the characterization was fairly light in this first book, I'm eager to get to know these twins better throughout the series. She's completed her second novel, Dead Bird Through the Cat Door and is already working on her third. Jan is known to collect all things frog, hang out (a lot) in her writing cave, and compose witty blog posts at www.janmarkley.blogspot.com. I encourage you to check her out.

The Book in My Bag Today: Anywhere She Runs, Debra Webb


  1. I am going to have to check this out - I collected frogs myself at one point in my life.

    And I have to admit, I love Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Midnight!

  2. Glinda - THANK YOU for knowing Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Midnight. My stepdaughter looks at me funny when I mention the vampire bunny :-)

  3. sounds like a fun read.
    i'm going to pick it up for a friend's daughter who LOVES to read. thanks for the review!

  4. Aw Mi, that's awesome! Jan will be happy to hear that, I'm sure. Thanks for reading - as always. Hugs.

  5. I loved Bunnicula!!! God does that bring back memories! Didn't scare me though...LOL!

    Didn't Nancy drive a beetle in the old books? But it was painted all cool and that sort of thing?!?! Or am I imagining it?

  6. I loved Nancy Drew! My daughters, though, were not impressed.

    I LOVE that title. Sounds like something my brother would've done to me when we were kids, hahahaha

  7. Thanks for this post. I am definitely checking it out for my daughter.

  8. Thanks Dawn, you rock something awesome!

    Zombiemom - in the newer books Nancy drives a hybrid!

  9. Zombiemom - I don't know why I didn't know you were a Nancy Drew fan :-) Is Sierra? xo

    Vicki - I know what you mean about the title. It made me wish I had brothers.

    Wendy - You're very welcome. I hope your daughter likes it.

    Jan - back atcha :-)

  10. The book sounds pretty tasty. The title does not, but its brilliant. I might have to read this.

  11. LOL. Thanks, Donna. I'm sure you'd like it.

  12. Zombiemom, Nancy Drew had a convertible, I'm sure of that, but I don't remember whether or not it was a Beetle.

    I re-read The Mystery of the Tolling Bell last summer. I LOVED the books as a kid, but as an adult and a writer, they were kind of hilarious. Nancy was the attractive, brainy one. Bess was her shy, "plump" sidekick whose job was to remind them when it was time to eat. And George was the athletic tomboy, game for anything. And poor Ned Nickerson. That dude was such a dope. Around whenever Nancy needed him then totally ignored.

    Heh heh heh. That's one awful review. ; )

  13. Suzanne - I remember that one as well! I haven't tried reading them again as an adult. I'm scared to, especially since I write. I bet they break all kinds of modern rules :-)

  14. My mom used to read us Nancy Drew books taken from the library when we were on summer vacation. We'd all whole up in her bed on a rainy day and she'd just read. Great series!

  15. Sounds like fun! PS: I love frogs :) Especially those ugly looking toads they get up in Queensland, because, the poor things never get kissed ;-)

  16. CQG - as the oldest cousin, I spent many a rainy summers at our cabin reading Nancy Drew books out loud. Good times :-)

    AA - you're like a crusader for frogs that have never been kissed. I love you even more today <3