a cool autumn day, a frog and a toad awake in their separate houses to find that their yards are filled with fallen leaves.
The frog and toad (conveniently named Frog and Toad) see each other every day, and are particularly synchronized: rather than clean his own yard, each decides to go to the other’s house to rake up the leaves there as a kind surprise for his friend.
But, when they meet (after Toad falls headfirst into the water and soaks the sandwiches he’s made for lunch), Frog says, “I happy. This morning when I woke up I felt good because the sun was shining. Frog and Toad are “of the same sex, and they love each other,” she told me.
“It was quite ahead of its time in that respect.” In 1974, four years after the first book in the series was published, Lobel came out to his family as gay.
In a 1977 interview with the children’s-book journal You know, if an adult has an unhappy love affair, he writes about it.
He exorcises it out of himself, perhaps, by writing a novel about it. “Think of all the stories we missed.”When reading children’s books as children, we get to experience an author’s fictional world removed from the very real one he or she inhabits.
In his Frog and Toad books, published between 19, the pair visit each other at home and explore their natural surroundings together, occasionally seeing other animals, like a snail who is the mailman, or birds who enjoy cookies that Frog and Toad throw out when they can’t stop eating them.
At the end of the story, Frog and Toad’s altruism has amounted to nothing more than the feeling they each got from it. That doing good deeds can make the doer feel good, even if those deeds go unrecognized?“I think ‘Frog and Toad’ really was the beginning of him coming out,” Adrianne told me.Lobel never publicly discussed a connection between the series and his sexuality, but he did comment on the ways in which personal material made its way into his stories.During his career, he worked on dozens of children’s books, both as a writer and as an illustrator, and also, in some instances, in collaboration with his wife, Anita Kempler, whom he met while studying art and theatre as an undergraduate, at Pratt Institute.His specialty was animals and their misadventures: an owl who butters his own tie by mistake, a crow who convinces a bear that it’s fashionable to wear bedsheets for clothes and a pan for a hat.Lobel’s ending, “That night Frog and Toad were both happy when they each turned out the light and went to bed,” is a satisfying conclusion that nonetheless makes the mind roam.One wonders if the friends will meet the next day and ask each other expectantly whether cleaning up their yards had been difficult, only to be flummoxed when they heard that, yes, it was.Among those in heaviest rotation: Richardson’s conduct was treated as something of a running office joke, according to multiple former Panthers team employees, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.Male employees would knowingly ask the women whether the Carolina owner had noticed them that day.“Wake up,” he writes, then immediately crosses it out. Lobel’s daughter, Adrianne Lobel, a painter and set designer who lives in Manhattan, told me that her father’s sense of humor was influenced by popular TV series—his favorites were “Bewitched” and “The Carol Burnett Show”—and by the polished comedy routines of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and Fred Astaire and Edward Everett Horton.(When she produced a stage adaptation of the Frog and Toad stories, in 2002, the opening number had the amphibian duo coming out of hibernation, somewhat dreamily, like the number “The Babbitt and the Bromide,” performed by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, in which two men meet intermittently throughout life, exchange superficial pleasantries, and then meet in heaven and do the same.) As a child, Adrianne didn’t think there was anything particularly special about her father reading her the stories he’d written.