Leon's Song (Reviews)

The Quill & Quire (December 2004) – Bridget Donald

“. . . Leon’s Song . . . [focuses] in its lyrical way on inner beauty and hidden potential. Stephanie Simpson McLellan, author of The Chicken Cat, uses vibrant descriptions and poetic phrases (“tiny tadpoles blipped crazily along the surface like a million joyous raindrops”) to create a sense of majesty and drama. Dianna Bonder (the B.C.-based author of Accidental Alphabet) has painted friendly, often dreamy-looking frogs amid scenes of soft blues, greens and browns. These full-page illustrations are remarkable for their sense of movement, their almost-palpable vibrations. Looking at the pictures, you can practically hear the aquatic chorus.”

CM Magazine (November 26, 2004) – Helen Norrie

“With similarities to “The Ugly Duckling,” Leon’s Song is the story of an old frog who is not handsome, or a swift swimmer, not an exceptional jumper or a beautiful singer, yet feels he “has been born for a purpose.” The language is one of the things that makes this picture book special. Stephanie Simpson McLellan, who lives in Newmarket, ON, has a gift for finding just the right word. The little fishes jump with “joyful exuberance.” The tiny tadpoles “blipped crazily along the surface like a million joyous raindrops.” When the invader approaches, “a dark shadow advanced beneath the surface, deliberate and undetected.”


Brandon Sun (December 11, 2004) – Sally Bender

“If you saw Leon dozing in the sun, you might think age had made him all quiet and peaceful inside. You might think he was content to spend his days resting and remembering. But you’d be wrong.”

“I have said this before…I can relate to Leon. For, he is an old frog and seems content to spend his days peacefully. But, he isn’t! As old as his body is, his heart is ‘young and yearning’. He wants to make a difference in the world. He feels that he has no talents and he does have some foibles. As he watches the other pond dwellers, he recognizes all those things he cannot do.

“And then, one day when it is most needed, Leon finds his calling and call he does. His friends share Leon’s story for years to come; and, if you should visit their pond, they might even tell you! Lovely language and captivating watercolour artwork add to the appeal of this lively frog’s finest hour.


Victoria Literature Roundtable (Fall 2004) – Sheryl McFarlane

“One of my recent favourites [is] Leon’s Song by Stephanie Simpson McLellan and illustrated by Dianna Bonder. . . . Frogs rarely inspire when it comes to kids books, but Leon from Leon’s Song, is a frog who longs to do just that. But Leon’s dream seems less likely with each passing day. By the time “…forty springs had thawed his world awake” Leon still hasn’t discovered his talent. Then one day, something happens that changes everything.

“Adults will appreciate Simpson McLellan’s use of rich language, and children will be delighted by Bonder’s frogs. Orlando, the handsomest frog in the pond could never for a moment be mistaken for Alonzo, who is able to leap from one shore to the other. Leon will likely be their favourite though, as he is mine; a chubby, bumpy, rather elderly frog with the heart of a youngster.” – Vancouver (December 3, 2004) Holiday Gift Guide

“The children’s picture book is an artform that invites various types of approach. It’s not uncommon to see books aimed at small children that offer up very little in the way of story, but dazzle with brilliant artwork and just a few carefully chosen words. While that type can be wonderful, there’s something just a little more special about a 32-page book that not only delivers gorgeous artwork, but manages also a fairly involved story with characters you can care about and even some plot. Leon’s Song is like that. Stephanie Simpson McLellan’s full-sized tale of an old frog named Leon and his rediscovery of himself is harnessed alongside world class illustrations by award-winning artist Dianna Bonder. Together they’ve created a tiny epic worthy of the most enthusiastic little readers.”


The Georgia Straight – Vancouver Free Press (December 2, 2004) – John Burns

“Try Leon’s Song by Newmarket, Ontario’s, Stephanie Simpson McLellan, with art by the wonderful Dianna Bonder of Maple Ridge. Leon just wants to find one thing he’s good at after 40–40!–years around the pond. Before the day is done, he’ll show the others that you don’t need to teach an old frog new tricks. The story–what language-acquisition theorists would call cumulative narrative–builds on one simple idea from page to page, but it’s the dynamic illustrations that will hold little ones’ attention. This and a trip to the aquarium–bliss.”


Children’s Literature – Meredith Ackroyd

“Leon is an old pond frog, but even in his old age, he has not stopped hoping that one day he will find his gift and make an impact on the pond community. The frogs around him all seem to have something that makes them stand out—beauty, strength, swiftness, and song—but Leon’s only talent seems to be spotting danger. Leon thinks that being watchful just makes him a coward, but one day, when the whole pond is in danger, he finds that it is the very talent that makes him special and allows him to unleash his hidden strength and beauty. When Leon saves the day, the whole pond learns to appreciate his unique gifts for generations to come. Accompanied by warm, glowing illustrations of frogs that seem almost human in gesture and expression, Leon’s journey to self-discovery is a gentle and uplifting story that asserts that it is never too late to find one’s gift and the special place that it holds in the larger community.”