Phillis Gershator







About me



Little Lenty


written and illustrated
by Phillis Gershator

Campanita Books
Little Bell Caribbean, 2014, 2019

* Governor Bryan's Virgin Islands Summer Reading Challenge 2019.
 From the book jacket:
    In the Caribbean, all the frogs sing, all except one. Heʼs a tiny frog with a long name, Eleutherodactylus lentus, and he lives in the Virgin Islands. Lenty canʼt sing like the other frogs, no matter how hard he tries. But when Señor Coquí shows up and leads the little frogs in song, Lenty discovers there is something he can do.

A little about the book:
    When I read William P. MacLean's Reptiles and Amphibians of the Virgin Islands (Macmillan, 1982), I was especially intrigued by his description of a voiceless frog called Lentus. Lentus is a member of the Eleutherodactylus family, tiny frogs who lay eggs which hatch into fly-sized froglets instead of tadpoles.

    I wondered, how does a frog like Lentus communicate with other frogs? People who can't speak use sign language. The idea came to me that even if Lentus couldn't sing like other frogs, he might well hop and leap and jump better than they do. Maybe he could even...dance!

    In this book, I wanted to illustrate not only our local frogs, but other creatures who live in the Virgin Islands, such as the donkey, goat, green iguana, morrocoy turtle, frigate bird, pelican, hummingbird, green parrot, bat, anoli lizard, land crab, egret, mongoose, and frangipani hawkmoth caterpillar. The Caribbean is also home to beautiful and unusual plants, including the flowers, bushes, and trees pictured in the book: fern, ginger, anthurium, yellow alamanda, devil's backbone, candlebush, orchid, airplant, pineapple, frangipani, coconut palm, sea grape tree, coleus,
snake plant, bromeliad, croton, philodendron, bougainvillea, and hibiscus.

    Writing Little Lenty was a way for me to celebrate Bill MacLean's life. Bill was a noted and enthusiastic biologist and long time professor
at the University of the Virgin Islands, as well as a person of vast knowledge and expertise in many diverse fields, a true polymath, and a great inspiration to me, just as he was to all his students. I hope this book, dedicated to Bill, will also inspire the students who join our Governor's Summer Reading Challenge––and students everywhere!

Things to do:
1) There are lots more animals and plants in the Virgin Islands than you'll see in Little Lenty. Can you draw some of them? What about snakes, termites, sugar birds, hawks, black anis, reef fish, herons, doves, geckos.... What about the century plant, monkey puzzle, banana, lime tree, barrel cactus, sea oat, papaya, love leaf, flamboyant, yellow cedar.... Did I forget any?

2) Did you ever go on a frog hunt? Keep a look out for frogs in damp places, flower pots, plants that hold water in their leaves. I've seen frogs under the overhang of our house, in our cistern, and once I found a coquí in an open bag of potting soil.
Here it is, life size, smaller than a bougainvillea leaf!


After a rain, you might find puddles on the roadside
filled with tadpoles.  (Eleutherodactylus eggs hatch into froglets, but other kinds of frogs' eggs hatch into tadpoles. Day by day their bodies change so they can live on land as well as water.)

3) Find books in the library about fictional frogs.

Some of my favorites are:
ALL of the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel
A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
Frog Went A-Courtin' by John Langstaff and Feodor Rojankovsky
Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan
And don't forget the most famous frog fairy tale of all time:
The Frog Prince.

Please send me the titles of your favorites and I'll add them to this list.

4) Read non-fiction (true) stories and books about frogs, about their life cycles and how different frogs have adapted to their environment in different parts of the world.

Click on this picture to read a true story I wrote about the coquí for Ladybug magazine (April 2013).


5) Listen to the coquí's call:

6) Watch videos about unusual frogs.

Here are two short videos from National Geographic:

The water holding frog:

The "shaking" red-eyed tree frog:

7) Make an origami frog:

Things to think about:
    Why do frogs make noise? Mostly to defend one's territory and to attract a mate. Some frogs make noise before or after rainy weather. Some cry when they are hurt or in trouble. Some make such high pitched sounds human beings can't hear them. And some cannot croak at all.  
    If a frog can't make a sound, what might it do to defend its territory or attract a mate?

    When the frogs in Little Lenty taunt Lenty because he can't make a sound, the big frog doesn't join in. He tries to teach Lenty to sing instead.
     Why do people taunt and tease one another? What's the difference between taunting and teasing?
     Is teasing ever funny? Affectionate? Bullying? Mean? Does the person being teased feel embarrassed? Amused? Hurt? Happy?

     Lenty isn't able to copy the other frogs, and the other frogs can't copy Coquí. Sometimes it IS possible to copy someone else. Is it a good thing to do? Or a bad thing? Is so, when? Why?

     Lenty joins the musical fun in his own special way. He dances. Are there other ways to show how much we enjoy music? 

     We have five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing. If one of our senses doesn't work, can we use another in its place?     

    Would you rather sing alone (solo) or in a chorus? Is there a difference?

night music
Frogs singing at night––
under the starriest of stars
on the greenest of islands!