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Warton and the Castaways cover image 001Warton and the Castaways, by Russell E. Erickson, pictures by Lawrence Di Fiori

Slowly, the door opened. When it was as wide open as it would go, Warton’s and Morton’s eyes were as wide open as they would go.
Two rather elderly tree toads were standing stiffly in the doorway. One was dressed all in purple, from her high-collared blouse, to her long skirt, to her high-buttoned shoes. The other was dressed exactly the same, except all her clothes were orange…
The tree toad in purple looked at Warton through thick glasses that made her eyes seem twice as large as they really were. “Go away,” she said…warton and the castaways illustration2 di fiori 001
“But our lives are in danger!” said Warton.
“A raccoon is after us!” said Morton.
At that, the tree toad in purple…went over to the tree toad in orange. “It appears to me that they are telling the truth, Cora,” she said in a loud whisper.
“Oh, spider spit!” said Cora. “Now I’m going to feel quite bad about sending them away.”
“Me too,” said Hester. “Still, it can’t be helped.” She returned to Warton and Morton. “I’m sorry,” she said, “you simply can’t come in.”

The beloved toad brothers, Warton and Morton, are back at Orange Marmalade this week to cajole you into seeking them out in this wonderful, memorable adventure.

There’s  been quite a rainy, dreary stretch in the forest, and Morton has decided to bake some delicious honey bread to chase away the gloom. But alas! The honey pot is empty, all that golden sweetness having been loaned to a neighbor for her cough syrup concoction. Warton can see that to cheer his good brother, the two of them must brave the sodden elements and fetch some more honey, so they gather gear and ponchos and head out in search of “the soft humming of bees.”

warton and the castaways illustration di fiori 001A hungry, highly-intimidating raccoon, however, is also out looking for food and is quite pleased to happen upon “a pail full of honey and a poncho full of toad.” Morton’s quick thinking saves the toads, momentarily, but now they need to convince these two eccentric cousins — Hester and Cora — to invite them into their tree house — and quickly!

Why are Hester and Cora so inhospitable? What is the sense of their dressing and decorating the entire house in purple and orange? What happens if the menacing raccoon discovers the toad brothers and the toad cousins — will it be just that much more toad for dinner? And how does the swollen river play an unexpected role in the whole adventure?

Ridiculous banter, harrowing escapes, an accordion-playing toad, toppling trees, mosquito croquettes — are all part of the hurly-burly scrapes and squabbles encountered in this delightful episode of Warton and Morton.

The Warton and Morton series by Russell E. Erickson are some of our warton and the castaways illustration3 di fiori 001family’s very-most-favorite early chapter books and it is a crying shame that they are out of print. Crammed with personality, adventure, humor, and two brothers who always have each other’s back, each Warton and Morton story is a gem. This one, featuring the absurd toad cousins Cora and Hester, is one of the best of the bunch.

Perfect for early-ish, independent readers as well as for reading aloud to ages 4 or 5 and up. Lawrence Di Fiori’s warm, warty, charming ink drawings perfectly bring to life these  intrepid toads and their varied surroundings.  Look for it in a library collection or search for used copies on line. You won’t be sorry!

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