Toad and the boy have many adventures and become true friends. The boy learns what Toad likes to eat, how he defends himself, and how he lives through the cold winter. Through Toad’s wise teaching the boy learns what animals are safe to be with. “It’s all a matter of size,” he said to the boy, “who eats who. No one in the woods is mean, they’re all just hungry. If their mouth is bigger than you are, you keep out of their way. If they could fit in your mouth, they’re not going to want to stick around and be friends either. So it kind of limits friendships to mouth size… Food is at the heart of everything in the woods.”
Toad and the Boy takes a close look how the animals, birds, plants, and insects in Toad’s environment form an eco-system of dependence on each other.
An excerpt from the book:
They had different opinions concerning food. The boy wondered how Toad could snap up greasy looking grubs. “Toad,” he said, “why don’t you eat ladybugs? At least they look good enough to eat.”
Toad made an awful face. “They taste bad,” he said. “Nobody eats ladybugs. Why don’t you just try a grub once? They are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside . . .” He looked dreamy and the boy heard Toad’s stomach rumble. “And pill bugs — they curl up into delicious little balls . . .”
Toad’s tongue was attached in the front of his mouth so he could flip it out fast. It was sticky on the end. When it touched a bug, the bug was stuck, and Toad could flip it right back in.
“Why don’t you try a blueberry sometime?” the boy said.
“I don’t have to,” Toad said, “to know that they’re no good. Nothing is worth eating unless it moves by itself. I don’t care if it creeps or flies or squirms, but it’s got to move or it’s rotten.
Jo Miles Schuman has loved toads since she was small and for a short time took care of a toad named Pukky Puk-Wudjy that she fed worms and sow bugs. She enjoys the natural world and likes walking in the woods and drawing and painting what she sees there in order to celebrate and share with others the beauty of plant and animal life.
She has three grown children and lives with her husband and their dog Callie on the coast of Maine. She has published two previous books: Art from Many Hands: Multicultural Art Projects, of which she is the author; and A Spicing of Birds: Poems by Emily Dickinson, which she edited with Joanna Bailey Hodgman.