Charlie & Frog by Karen Kane is a page-turning mystery novel for young readers. As part of the book tour, I was able to ask author Karen Kane a few questions. Read on to learn where the name Frog came from and what her biggest challenge is as a writer.
Charlie & Frog: The Plot
Frog (aka Francine Castle), is Deaf and shines as a tenacious, crime-solving protagonist who introduces Charlie to the world of sign language and teaches it throughout.
All Charlie Tickler wants is for his parents to listen. Charlie’s parents have left him (again). This time they are off to South Africa to help giant golden moles. And Charlie? He’s been dumped with his TV-obsessed grandparents. Lonely and curious, Charlie heads into the village of Castle-on-the-Hudson, where a frightened old woman gives him a desperate message—in sign language. When she suddenly disappears, Charlie is determined to find answers.
All Francine (aka Frog) Castle wants is to be the world’s greatest detective. Frog, who is Deaf, would rather be solving crimes than working at the Flying Hands Café. When Charlie Tickler walks into the café looking for help, Frog jumps at the chance to tackle a real-life case.
Together, Charlie and Frog set out to decipher a series of clues and uncover the truth behind the missing woman’s mysterious message. Charlie needs to learn American Sign Language (fast) to keep up with quick-witted Frog. And Frog needs to gather her detective know-how (now) to break the case before it’s too late.
Karen Kane: Happy Place
Charlie & Frog is such an uplifting and fun book to read. I instantly fell in love with the characters and the plot was lighthearted but also extremely engaging.
I asked Karen Kane a few questions, and the answers were surprising.
1. If a child wants to learn sign language after reading this book, how would you suggest they go about doing that?
KK: The best way to learn sign language is to find a Deaf friend. If you can’t find a Deaf friend, find a sign language class taught by a Deaf teacher. There are also great programs and apps online that you can use to get you started.
2. What do you love most about writing for Children?
KK: When I am reading a good children’s book, I am in my happy place. When I create my own story world as a writer, I have that same joyful feeling. So I love writing for children because it makes me feel happy and joyful.
3. Do you have plans for more books after Charlie & Frog?
KK: Most definitely! Right now I’m writing the next Charlie & Frog book, tentatively called The Boney Hand. I am also working on a picture book. And I have lots of other books I want to write!
4. When did you first learn you wanted to be an author?
KK: I was always a voracious reader, but it wasn’t until my late thirties that I really owned that I wanted to be an author, and that I wanted to write children’s books. I am definitely a late bloomer!
5. Did anyone in your life inspire the characters in your book?
KK: Frog was inspired by the many strong and assertive Deaf girls I met as a sign language interpreter. Charlie has a little bit of me in him. And the other characters, such as Grandma and Grandpa Tickler, Miss Tweedy, and Chief Paley, were created from bits and pieces of people I know. I take a trait or characteristic, and I ramp it up to make it more quirky or funny or interesting. I love creating characters!
6. What was the most difficult thing about writing Charlie & Frog?
KK: The plot was the most difficult part of writing Charlie & Frog. Plotting is my biggest challenge, and plotting a mystery even more so. I learned as I rewrote and edited. And I am still learning. That’s the amazing thing about writing (and just about everything else)—the more you learn, the more you realize how much you still don’t know!
7. How did you come up with the nickname Frog for Francine?
KK: Like most of my characters, Frog’s name just popped into my head and I wrote it down. She emerged as Francine, who gave herself the nickname “Frog” when she was three years old. Then I created a story of why she picked that nickname, using the famous statue (within the Deaf community) of Alice Cogswell and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet as my starting point.
The deaf community is underrepresented in children’s books. I am thrilled that Karen created Charlie & Frog. I hope that children read this book and try to learn sign language for themselves and perhaps try to create friendships with someone that is hearing impaired. This book is a MUST for any young reader that loves a good clean mystery. I’m already anxiously awaiting the next book about Charlie and Frog.