Book Review: 90 Frogs

First posted in December, 2004

On the fourth day of Christmas my Yoon Ha gave to me...

... ninety frogs to make me go squee*.

I have received much holiday goodness in the post and in person already this year, and it's only December 16th. Hooray! First, I was showered with gifts upon my arrival to the United Kingdom (and I suspect that Sam's lack of patience and desire to wrap things means I will have no presents on Christmas morning but that's okay because that's not really what it's about, now is it, Baby Jesus?). Then upon arrival to Bishop's Castle there was a lovely little cdmix waiting for me from Storme, and a couple of days later I received an adorable little card (smallest Christmas card I've ever received, I think) from Kat that featured a kitten wearing a tiara. Heap on top of this the fact that Sam's parents have been so wonderful to me. So much goodness! Thank you, everyone!

And then yesterday a strange little package from an unknown address arrived in the mail at Field's Cottage. Inside was a tiny book entitled 90 frogs by Dennis H. Dutton (karma tenzing wangchuk) and a hand-written note from the publisher indicating that the book was a gift from Yoon Ha, who really shouldn't have. But I am glad she did, for lo, the book has been the source of much amusement, and is deserving of a book review.

Basically, once upon a time around the turn of the century, there was this dude named Dennis who gave his mother ninety oragami frogs for her ninetieth birthday, with a frog haiku on the back of each one. Awwww. Very sweet. Unfortunately, the frog is the Japanese symbol of returning home (according to the book's introduction), and his mother has since returned home. Awwww. Very sad. But this sadness is tempered with the joy that these haiku are now collated into a little anthology, a hodge-podge of pseudo-thoughtfulness and extreme silliness.


on the frog's back
in each one a sun
Extremely silly

mr frog
you've been around
tell me about love

Other favorites:

the tree frog's
tiny toes
touched by the dawn
too much learning
better to be simple
like the frog
were you this noisy
as a polliwog
so many eyes on earth
who sees more clearly
frogs or men
the frog's belly
in and out
what is the sound
of one frog singing
in cyberspace

Really, the primary difficulty I am experiencing in making this journal entry is that I want to retype the entire book, but that would spoil it and I know that with this tempting taste of frog haiku you'll all be heading over to Bottle Rocket Press for your own personal copy of this anthology. I can not recommend it enough. The quality of the haiku is stunning; it's shocking, particularly when you attempt to wrap your brain around the fact that he wrote all ninety of these haikus in a mere four days.

Also, it has taught Sam and I that you can pretty much make anything a frog haiku just by adding phrases like a frog, or the frog, or many frogs:

on the mossy stone
a frog
in the cattails
all night long
one frog
back and forth
over the lake
two frogs

A conversation from this morning:

         Sam:   I love you, too.
 Where are my pants?
         Jacqueline: No frogs.

It's really just that simple, really. It's inspiring everyone in this cottage to come up with frog poetry, and not everyone is being so simplistic. The chief d'oevre thus far is from Mash, Sam's father:

I had a frog
that made jokes
he was flippant

So thank you very much, Yoon, for such a great little gift! If you don't have a copy and picked this thing up blind, let me know and I'll lend it to you sometime.

As for anyone who might be groaning over the length of this post on frog haiku, count your blessings: my original idea was to share a haiku with you each day for the next three months, but I thought better of it. Go buy the book!

* There is something so wrong about the title and preface to this book review. Please forgive me.