This article contains two reviews. The first: for those interested in The Book of Frogs as a compendium of knowledge. The second: for those interested in The Book of Frogs as an unlikely human phenomena, an exploration of the intricacies and eccentricities of our world and the amount of knowledge it is possible for one person to possess and present with inspiringly obvious passion.

Review 1
I’m not an expert on frogs. In all likelihood neither are you. If you desire to remedy this ignorance, The Book of Frogs contains a significant amount of information about frogs. Two thumbs up.

Review 2
I don’t think I’ve ever cared for anything the way Tim Halliday cares for frogs. By comparison, I am emotionally barren. I can barely handle a single romantic relationship. Batrachophilia is a much more work-intensive ardor.

The Book of Frogs details over 600 species of frogs, which, mind-bogglingly, comprises less than one-tenth of total frog species. Tim Halliday writes about each one as if it were his lover. Consider his description of the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog, a “slim, athletic frog with…long, muscular legs,” which isn’t even one of the prettier frogs in the catalog. Halliday is an emotional cosmonaut, exploring the outermost reaches of human feeling. He has breached the extremities of passion. Should not we all hope to touch, if briefly, such fondness for the world and its creatures?

Love can manifest itself in many ways. For Halliday, his most endearing eccentricity is the incredible specificity with which he describes each individual frog’s call. From the “Zip…trill” of the Natal Spiny Reed frog to the “metallic ‘toc’” of the Alexteroon Obstetrician to the “poop…poop…poop” (I shit thee not) of the Yellow Bellied Toad, Halliday is willing to get us up close and personal with his beloved creatures.

For those interested in those who study frogs, delightful tidbits such as this make the book a light, whimsical read. Each frog comes complete with it’s own page, a raunchy description of its mating habits (such as the Polkadot Poison Frog, which screws in a “vent to vent position,” whatever the hell that means), a map of its native habitat, and a life-sized photo of the frog itself. Doubtful as it is that any person could make it through The Book of Frogs cover to cover, it’s fortunate that Halliday’s personality pops on every page, rendering even the dullest frogs adorable through his eyes. Never before could I have imagined my love for the Pumpkin Toadlet, a “plump little frog” that resembles orange radioactive snot.

Of course, for Halliday, his meticulous admiration is not an aberration, but representative of the world at large. Behind every page lurks the assumption that everyone in the world, if given the opportunity, would abandon their job to study frogs. Such is this case when he claims, somewhat derangedly, that the announcement of a “new frog species in 2014 aroused considerable media attention…

No it didn’t, Tim, you jokester. What channels are you watching?

Halliday’s passion, however, is also The Book of Frogs’ greatest weakness. Halliday is both author and target audience. Even while attempting to educate us, he cannot hide his condescension toward the uninformed few who have yet to discover their violent passion for frogs. At times, Halliday laces his disdain with useful bits of information, such as that the distinction between frogs and toads is “biologically meaningless.” At others, Halliday laughs at the average man whose typical perception of frogs as accomplished hoppers does “scant justice to the variety of ways in which they move through their environment.

Yeah, idiots.

Additionally, Halliday’s wealth of knowledge may have inhibited his perception of what information would be most useful to the froggy dilettante such as myself. While the book is, in all seriousness, beautiful, fun, and informative, it lacks several key pieces that would push it to a perfect five.

1. There is no geographical index.. My immediate inclination upon receiving The Book of Frogs was to go exploring for frogs in my local area, or, alternatively, impress girls with my sexily specific knowledge of amphibians we encounter in nighttime strolls. While each frog page does include a map of its territory, there is no way to find hot single frogs near you right now!

2. Halliday fails to differentiate the levels of toxicity between the many varieties of poisonous frogs roaming the jungles of South America like shiny Sweet Tart colored killing machines.

This is, to my estimation, the most practical information a book of this nature could give to a layman like me. Which frogs will kill me? I still don’t know. I am wholly unprepared to deal with encountering them in the wild. All I know to avoid for sure is the Golden Poison Frog, whose skin contains enough toxins to kill “22,000 mice,” which is, in my opinion, a strange measure of deadliness. Though, if you have a rodent infestation, maybe better to get a frog than a cat.

The scary part is, after spending a few weeks submerged in The Book of Frogs, you begin to understand Halliday’s obsession. Frogs and people: they’re not so different. I’ve known good friends at bars to act just like the Natal Spiny Reed Frog, whose mating choruses are plagued by silent “satellite” males that lazily intercept females on the way to the dudes doing all the work. I’ve known all bark, no bite bros like the North American Bullfrog, who are quite territorial but usually resolve conflicts peaceably with “an exchange of calls.” Poison Dyeing Frogs love sensual touch as much as any human, as a female woos a mate by “approaching the male and stroking his snout and back with her hands.” In fact, we could probably learn a little about relationships from our amphibious friends, including the Yellow-Headed Poison Frog whose progressive parenting style is characterized by devoted single fathers.

All in all, Halliday captures both the extraordinary and ordinary of frogs in the same breathless prose that you wrote in love notes to your eighth-grade crush. Couple that with six hundred beautifully composed pictures of sometimes beautiful animals, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a novelty book. In its several months as the centerpiece of my coffee table, The Book of Frogs has generated more conversation than any other item in my apartment. It’s an aesthetic pleasure as an art object, informative as a reference guide, and gives me hope that one day, just like Tim Halliday, I will learn to love.

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