fiction favorites…Warton and Morton

Warton and Morton, by Russell E. Erickson, illustrated by Lawrence Di Fiori

“Morton,” said Warton smacking his lips, “this is the best cooked-in-the-wilderness supper anyone could ever eat.  You can be proud of yourself.”
“Thank you,” said Morton with satisfaction.
Later, as darkness settled upon the forest, the two brothers sipped tea and stared into the glowing coals.  Then Morton pulled out a small harmonica that he carried on a cord around his neck.  He played softly at first, and then, as the notes grew louder and carried farther into the darkness, it seemed as if every insect of the night hushed to hear the beautiful music.
Then the stars dimmed behind passing clouds, the air grew cooler, and both toads became sleepy.  They went quietly into the tent and were soon fast asleep…Morton was curled up in his sleeping bag towards the back.  Warton was snoring under a blanket with his feet sticking out of the doorway.
Suddenly, Warton sat straight up.  “Morton!” he cried.  “Wake up!…I feel water between my toes.”
…Morton quickly lit a candle.  And as the tiny flame grew, its fluttery light revealed a startling sight.  Water was running right into the tent — running at an alarming rate…Before they had time even to speak, a wall of churning water burst upon them.  The tent and everything inside it was picked up and swept off into the darkness.

Warton and Morton are frog brothers.  Warton is the adventurous one, full of wanderlust.  Morton is a homebody, and an excellent cook.  It’s springtime and everything is bursting with invigorating smells and refreshing sounds, calling  Warton to get out and explore.  Reluctantly, Morton agrees to accompany him, though he is sure dangers lurk everywhere.

Turns out, Morton is right.  After a quintessential Evening-Around-the-Campfire, the brothers’ luck changes as they are swept apart by the rampaging waters of a flash flood charging through their campsite.  Thus begins a harrowing adventure, as the two of them  search for one another. .  Along the way they build a keen raft, participate in a jovial Muskrat Spring Dance and Festival, teach Ma Beaver how to cook a mean omelette, and settle a long-standing swamp dwellers feud.

Russell Erickson’s Warton and Morton series is fantastic, and sadly, out of print.  How can this be?!  My children cut their independent-reading teeth on these exciting stories, quickly coming to love these endearing frogs.  Di Fiori’s black ink sketches perfectly complement the books, bringing out the personality of these fellows and their quirky predicaments.  There are about five books in the series.  One,  which I’ve reviewed earlier on Orange Marmalade, A Toad for Tuesday, is still widely available.  My advice:  If you find a used copy of Warton and Morton for a decent price, snatch it up!  Particularly for young boys, these are excellent stories for early read-alouds or thin, approachable, chapter books for a burgeoning independent reader.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Warton and Morton (Knight Books)