David Wiesner’s Tuesday

David Wiesner’s Tuesday reviewed by Susan Fry

It’s “Tuesday evening, around eight,” when something strange and wonderful happens in a swamp. Frogs, dozing peacefully, suddenly float up into the air on their lily pads, as if they’re riding magic carpets. They can fly! From that single, fantastic premise, David Wiesner builds a book filled with visual jokes, sympathetic characters, and hauntingly beautiful watercolor illustrations.

He does it almost entirely without words. Even young children can follow the frogs’ adventures through this extraordinary night.

Children can also easily relate to the frogs. Wiesner paints the amphibians’ expressions so realistically that they seem human. When the frogs realize they can fly, for example, their faces fill with astonished joy. When they fly circles in the air, their mouths stretch open so exuberantly you can almost hear them shout “Whee!” What child – or grownup – wouldn’t feel that way, too, if given the chance to fly?

The rest of the world isn’t so pleased. A turtle cowers inside his shell when the frogs float above him, and a dog turns tail and flees. Wiesner is cleverly representing the triumph of the weak over the strong, the oppressed finally rising up to claim a previously denied power. What child, after all, doesn’t dream of turning the tables on the adult world?

The frogs do that, as well. They play sly tricks on humans. They descend on a house like a fleet of UFOs, waving at an astonished man making a midnight snack. They wear borrowed laundry like superhero capes. They take over a sleeping woman’s remote control to watch her television.

Wiesner’s incandescent colors – purples, blues, and greens – evoke the mystery of a glowing twilight instead of a dark and scary night. Did I mention the book even won a Caldecott Award?

But sadly, even the most wonderful adventures have to end. As dawn lightens the pages with touches of yellow and white, the new ability fades. Startled, the frogs tumble to the ground and humbly hop back to their swamp.

Even in what could be a dark moment, however, Wiesner finds the right comic touches. The frogs look disgruntled, not sorrowful, and the humans are still puzzled – detectives examine the wreckage of abandoned lily pads.

The final page even offers a ray of hope for another species. “Next Tuesday, 7:58 P.M,” gives a glimpse of another animal flying over a barn. Let’s just say I can’t wait for a sequel: “When Pigs Fly.”

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.

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