November 21, 2013–March 23, 2014
(San Francisco, CA, September 30, 2013) The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) presents Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel, a new exhibition celebrating Arnold Lobel (1933–1987), the award-winning author and illustrator of some of the most beloved children’s books produced since the late 1960s. Included amongst these are the classic early readers in the Frog and Toad series (1971–79), Mouse Soup (1977), and Fables (1980), which was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal.
The exhibition features over one hundred original illustrations and works on paper highlighting Lobel’s detailed illustration technique and warm, funny tales of love and friendship, mostly among animal friends. Lobel subtly reflected on human foibles in a charming world populated by a talking frog, a toad, an owl, mice, kangaroos, and other colorful creatures.
“We’re thrilled to be able to share the much loved world of Arnold Lobel with families over the holiday season,” says Lori Starr, CJM Executive Director. “The exhibition continues the Museum’s ongoing effort to present the work of Jewish author-illustrators like Ezra Jack Keats and Maurice Sendak to new audiences and to engage our youngest visitors in an exploration of how stories can be told and what they can teach.”
Raised by his German-Jewish grandparents in Schenectady, New York, Lobel was an awkward and sensitive child, often bullied at school. Throughout his self-described unhappy childhood, he sought refuge in his local library. For Lobel, picture books were “capable of suggesting everything that is good about feeling well and having positive thoughts about being alive.” His passion for books spawned a talent for storytelling and drawing, and he soon won the respect of his classmates by enthralling them with the stories he invented.
Lobel graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in 1955 with a degree in fine arts. He married Anita Kempler, another art student at Pratt, that same year. They settled in Brooklyn across from the Prospect Park Zoo, where they went often with their children, inspiring one of his earliest books, A Zoo for Mister Muster (1962). His breakthrough came with the publication of The Comical Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog (1968). But it was in 1970, when an editor convinced Lobel to create an early reader (a new genre of books ushered in by Dr. Seuss and designed to motivate emerging readers), that he achieved real success.
Guided by the belief that the secret to creating great books for children is in writing for oneself about oneself, Lobel drew on fond memories of summers spent in Vermont where his family adopted myriad frogs and toads as pets. His strong affection for these amphibians resulted in the development of his most memorable characters, Frog and Toad.
“The little stories just poured out of me and . . . somehow in writing Frog and Toad, I was, for the first time, writing about myself.” Through humorous, green-and-brown-toned illustrations and exuberant dialogue, Frog and Toad emerged as lovable and remarkably human individuals in the four titles of the series, Frog and Toad Are Friends (1970), Frog and Toad Together (1972), Frog and Toad All Year (1976), and Days with Frog and Toad (1979).
Frog and Toad was just the beginning of a long list of early readers Lobel wrote and illustrated including Mouse Tales (1972), Mouse Soup (1977), and Uncle Elephant (1981). Lobel’s titles also included many illustrated collections of verse such as Gregory Griggs and Other Nursery Rhyme People (1978) and a highly original edition of Mother Goose (1986) inspired by Lobel’s understanding that the rhymes came from an era “when people used to wipe their mouths with their hair.” Lobel also illustrated stories by other authors, including Edward Lear’s The New Vestments (1970), and Jack Prelutsky’s Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep (1976). He also wrote the Caldecott Honor book, On Market Street (1981), for his wife to illustrate.
In his twenty-six year career, Lobel illustrated nearly one hundred titles and wrote the stories of many of them as well. His beautifully crafted books received numerous awards, including a Caldecott Medal, two Caldecott Honors, and a Newbery Honor.
Lobel varied his media, method, and mood with each new book. From the crisp precision of his Rembrandt-like pen-and-ink drawings for The Microscope (1984) to the smoky, smudgy, foggily atmospheric scene of London Bridge in Whiskers & Rhymes (1985), Lobel deftly demonstrated his wide-ranging repertory of styles and techniques. He sought inspiration in unexpected sources, turning, for example, to Chinese landscapes in his gentle parable Ming Lo Moves the Mountain (1982).
The exhibition will include a comfortable family resource area with activity stations where young visitors can draw and write postcards to a friend; create a self portrait with animal features; write a limerick; and create their own Lobel-style rare bird.
Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel is organized by the the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, in collaboration with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Massachusetts.
Related Family Programming
Arnold Lobel Story Time at SFPL
Thursday, Nov 21 | 1–8pm
Celebrate the opening of Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel with the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL). Visit sfpl.org for participating branches. Then afterwards, check out a free CJM family pass at your library, and come see the original artwork at the Museum.
Drop-In Art-Making: Frog and Toad Studios
Sundays, Nov 24 and Dec 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; Thursday, Dec 27; Fridays, Nov 29 and Dec 27; Tuesday, Dec 31 | 1–3pm
FREE with regular admission
Delve into Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel as you explore the art and stories in Lobel’s beloved books.
Frog and Toad Watercolor Workshop: Nov 24, Dec 1
Hanukkah is a time to have fun with family and friends, and what better way to show your love than a one-of-a-kind watercolor Hanukkah card or painting inspired by Arnold Lobel’s story “The Letter” in Frog and Toad Are Friends.
Create a Miniature Pond: Nov 29, Dec 8
In Arnold Lobel’s story “A Swim,” Frog and Toad and other animals have an adventure in the pond. Use colorful clay and other materials to create your own miniature pond full of adventures.
Button Art: Dec 15, 22, 27
In “A Lost Button” from Frog and Toad Are Friends, Toad has lost a button. We’ll have lots of buttons on hand for you to create your own imaginative button art.
Character Puppets: Dec 29, 31
Frog and Toad are the best dressed amphibians around! Create your own character puppet Arnold Lobel style!
Family Gallery Tours
Sundays, Nov 24 and Dec 8, 29; Friday, Nov 29 | 11:30am–12:15pm
FREE with regular admission
Take a journey into the adventures of Frog and Toad, Owl, and many other characters from Arnold Lobel’s books in a family-friendly gallery tour of the exhibition Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel.
Preschool Gallery Hour with Mister G
Sunday, Dec 8 | 10–11:30am (doors open at 9:45am)
FREE with regular admission
On second Sundays, the Museum opens early just for preschoolers and their families. Enjoy gallery explorations of Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel, hands-on art-making fun, and the music of Grammy nominated artist Mister G.
The CJM Community Free Day
Wednesday, Dec 25 | 11am–4pm
Free Museum admission all day
CJM Community Day is an admission-free, fun-for-all extravaganza. In celebration of Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel, visitors can tour the exhibition, step into the Frog and Toad Studio to create their own character puppet Arnold Lobel-style and enjoy performances by Grammy nominated duo The Pop Ups, who use cardboard props, hand-painted sets, and a colorful cast of original puppets in their musical sets to craft a world of magic that engages, educates, and delights all ages. Performances at 11:30am, 1pm, and 2:30pm.
About The Contemporary Jewish Museum
With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase “L’Chaim” (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.
Major support for the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by an Anonymous Donor; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; The Covenant Foundation; Suzanne and Elliott Felson; Gaia Fund; Denise Garone and Stuart A. Kogod; The John & Marcia Goldman Foundation; The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Nellie and Max Levchin; the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Osterweis Capital Management; Alison Gelb Pincus and Mark Pincus; The Skirball Foundation; Ruth and Alan Stein; Roselyne Chroman Swig; Target; and Anita and Ronald Wornick.
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CJM General Information
The Museum is open daily (except Wednesday) 11am–5pm and Thursday, 1–8pm. Museum admission is $12 for adults; $10 for students and senior citizens with a valid ID; and $5 on Thursdays after 5pm. Youth 18 and under are always free. For general information on the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the public may visit the Museum’s web site at thecjm.org or call 415.655.7800. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission Street (between Third & Fourth Streets), San Francisco.