Book review: Frog, by Charlotte Sleigh

As a famous frog once said, it’s not easy being green.

Kermit is one of many frogs that have made it into popular culture, along with Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher and a host of frog princes. But what is it about this slimy amphibian that captures our imaginations?

They’ve been around for about 200 million years and some have had an easy time of it, featuring in myths and fairytales or even religion — the early Christians in Egypt saw them as a symbol of resurrection. Others haven’t been so lucky and have ended up as the victims of bad press, featuring as creatures of decay in medieval tomb decoration, or on propaganda leaflets.

And then there are those that go under the knife, either as food or as martyrs of science, according to Herman von Helmholtz (1821-1894), who came up with this description as he experimented on them. Let’s face it, they’ve earned the name — from seeing how long something could survive in a vacuum chamber to making a battery, the attitude seemed to be let’s see if we can do it with a frog.

Author Charlotte Sleigh has set out to investigate the role the frog has in fairy tales, science and food, and had a good look at their somewhat peculiar natural history along the way. This book is a great read for anyone who is interested in frogs, either as food, animals or potential princes.

Charlotte Sleigh
Reaktion books
RRP: $24.99, available here

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