Recently the New Yorker published an article titled Frog and Toad: An Amphibious Celebration of Same-Sex Love which was supposedly about Mr. Arnold Lobel who wrote the children's series "Frog & Toad." Their support for this article was based on Adrianne Lobel's interview in which she states that Frog & Toad loved each other and were the same sex. This statement is taken to insinuate that Frog & Toad were homosexual characters in the children's book. This statement is based on Adrianne Lobel's report that her father "came out" privately to his family that he was gay in 1974. Later, Mr. Lobel died of AIDS in 1987. The articles gives a brief history of Mr. Lobel's life, being born in 1933 and raised in New York; then goes on to list Mr. Lobel's work with a brief mention of Anita Lobel, Mr. Lobel's wife. The article fails to identify that Mr. Lobel was married for 32 years until the day he died. Mrs. Lobel was not only Mr. Lobel's wife, she was also his partner in illustrating some of his works and has spoken publicly regarding her husband's books. Mrs. Lobel has never privately or publicly made any statements affirming her daughter's position on Frog & Toad series were homosexual characters.
It is interesting to see how many people are willing to grasp the opinion Mr. Lobel's characters are homosexual and shout this position as a triumph from the rooftops when Mr. Lobel has ever privately or publicly made that assertion. Furthermore, the New Yorker takes a quote from Mr. Lobel's interview in "The Lion and the Unicorn" and uses it to insinuate a homosexual basis in Frog & Toad was a result of his unhappy love affair. Unfortunately, the fact Mr. Lobel had a heterosexual marriage is never taken into account as perhaps part or influence in his previous comments.
The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature published in 2011 wrote an entire chapter, Chapter 3, on Frog & Toad's relationship discussing Mr. Lobel's position of his works that is quite insightful. Mr. Lobel created works "that had resonates in my own life" (page 72). Mr. Lobel's work was very creative and almost all the "descriptive details" come from his visual illustrations. Two important paradoxes are expressed in the Frog & Toad series including anthropomorphism (giving animals human characteristics) and the characters are depicted with behavior and attitudes of children combined with adult responsibilities. These paradoxes add levels of complexity to the characters and the plot of the stories. The plot always had a unifying quality or trait being explored varying on the aspects of altruistic friendship. Mr. Lobel intentionally designed his characters to not be of the real world so they could relate to a variety of people groups and avoid exclusivity, "I am very careful to not make any direct allusions to modern life" (page 81). "Everybody can relate to Frog and Toad because they don't exist in this world," Mr. Lobel stated (page 81).
The Oxford Chapter 3 illuminates other distinct possibilities for the Frog & Toad characters based on Mr. Lobel's comments. Clearly "there is no overt sexuality in any of these stories [Frog & Toad]" (page 84-85). "The majority of popular comedy duos are same-sex" (page 83): Laurel and Hardy; Abbot and Costello; The Three Stooges; and The Blues Brothers name just a few. Comedy duos function best with the strait man/clown man contrast in the same gender. There is a large amount of irony and comedy in Lobel's books which play off the comedic duos nature of Frog & Toad. Another description of Mr. Lobel's characters is "homosocial, indicating a close same-sex friendship that is not sexual." (page 85) .
While it cannot be denied Mr. Lobel had a heterosexual marriage of 32 years and a homosexual relationship before his death, Mr. Lobel's work in the Frog and Toad book series did not focus on sex but rather on aspects of true friendship. By labeling Mr. Lobel's work as only homosexual love, The New Yorker diminishes the very foundation Mr. Lobel tried so hard to incorporate in his books: characters that were non-exclusive to any worldly category.
Frog and Toad were neither animals or humans but a combination of both. They were neither adults or children, yet incorporated all aspects into their lives. They were also not rich or poor but could appeal to all social economic genres. Mr. Lobel was very careful to create characters that could teach the values of friendship without be labeled to any particular group because he did not want to isolate his characters from the children reading these stories. By labeling Lobel's characters as homosexual, The New Yorker has stolen part of the legacy Mr. Lobel created by fostering a wedge in designating an absolute definition of his work as homosexual in the minds of readers. Perhaps some children or parents may reject Lobel's books because of this stated sexual proclivity. Future readers may also not be able to understand altruistic friendship principles without having to associate some sort of sexual preference. Mr. Lobel's concept of creating characters that could teach positive values without being attached to any worldly group or barrier has been completely eradicated by this new slant to the Frog and Toad series.
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