Gleitzman, Morris. 2004. TOAD RAGE. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375827625 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
“Limpy reached forward and gently prodded Uncle Roly. He was dry and stiff. The hot Queensland sun had done its job.” Limpy the cane toad is tired of pulling his squashed relatives, or “rellies” as one says down under, off the road, flattened like placemats. He doesn’t understand why humans hate cane toads so much, and his determination grows stronger each time he sees the weaving headlights of a car then the distant pop as another relative gets flattened. Limpy, accompanied by his cousin Goliath, who, according to Limpy, swapped his brains for warts, sets off on a quest to convince humans that cane toads should not be used as targets for road kill, and ends up at the 2000 Games in Sydney, trying to become the newest Olympic mascot.
Limpy, whose warts glow with anger, prickle with exasperation, or tighten with nerves, is a sympathetic character that will have readers cheering him while he deals with life threatening obstacles. Humans, especially teenagers, are a constant threat, “Limpy felt himself being lowered, bottom first, toward the air valve on the tire.” Limpy and Goliath are eventually befriended by one of the Olympic athletes, and although they do not get signed on as mascots, they learn the life saving skill of pole vaulting, which enables them to stare down the biggest of vehicles, then vault off the road just in time to stay alive. Filled with Aussie slang like stack me, squiz, and rack off, this is a fast-paced hilarious look at life from the absurd perspective of the much maligned cane toad.
Focus on different aspects of Australia (native animals, climate, topography), and use the slang used in the book to discuss how different countries and cultures have different colloquialisms and what this means when you communicate cross-culturally.
Children could create their own story about a less-than-loved creature, and determine which event that animal would be best suited for in an Olympic games. They could create an illustration of the creature competing in an Olympic event.
Other books about toads:
Coville, Bruce. JENNIFER MURDLEY’S TOAD. ISBN 0152046135
Horwood, William. TOAD TRIUMPHANT. ISBN 0312148216
By Tammy Korns