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K-Gr. 2. Welcome to Cementland, "a dull, gray, endless place" of ruined buildings, exposed plumbing, and things in corners that nobody really wants to see. In that gloomy land dwells a special boy who finds a treasure. But it is one thing to find a treasure and quite another to keep it when thieves are around. To protect the loot, the boy (a round-headed, neckless stick figure) builds a creature from wire; wet, smelly socks; and other things at hand. And so is born Frog Belly Rat Bone, and before kids can say "junkyard dog," Cementland is transformed into a garden of Eden. The story is both predictable and a tad didactic, but the art and the design are extraordinary. Ering's combination of hand-lettered text and scribbly, muddy, scratchy pictures looks like a collaboration between Tim Burton and Ralph Steadman (in a good mood). Even better, the book's covers are embossed to offer tactile pleasures that the textured inside art only implies. Children will skim the story, but savor the art. Michael Cart
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Timothy Basil Ering says that THE STORY OF FROG BELLY RAT BONE was inspired by a visit to Descanso Gardens, a botanical garden in Pasadena, California, where there is a private garden for urban Los Angeles schoolchildren. "For as long as I can remember, I have loved to mix up words and phrases into silly little combinations that would make me laugh," he explains. "I’d make up songs while meandering down the outer beach of Cape Cod to favorite fishing spots, and ‘Frog Belly Rat Bone’ was always a favorite string of nouns. Then one day in Pasadena, I sat
at a tiny picnic table in the children’s garden and began to sketch the garden’s scarecrow. I knew at that moment that Frog Belly Rat Bone had found a home." Timothy Basil Ering’s artwork has appeared in books, magazines, theater sets, private murals, and fine art galleries. A resident of Somerville, Massachusetts, he is enamored of the sea and has a passion for nature and the outdoors. This is his first picture book with Candlewick Press.