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Where’s Burgess? by Laurie Elmquist


About the Book

Reece Hansen is missing two things: his father and his frog. His parents are newly separated, and his dad is now living in another city, fighting forest fires. Reece struggles to get used to daily life without him. When he loses his pet frog, Burgess, Reece puts posters up around the neighborhood. But frogs are difficult to find. It takes an unusual classmate, the boy who wears a bathrobe to school, to pull Reece’s attention away from Burgess. Through his new friend and a camping trip with his mom, Reece learns that friends can come in human form and that families are resilient even when things change.


About the Author

Laurie Elmquist holds an MA in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor in Ontario. She enjoys writing for kids, and is the author of Beach Baby, and Forest Baby. Where’s Burgess? was inspired by a Lost Frog poster she saw on a camping trip. Laurie teaches at Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia, and is an online instructor with the University of Calgary in Alberta. For more information, visit


About the Writing of the Book

It’s not often you see a LOST FROG poster. Laurie wanted to write a story about the person behind the poster. Nine-year old Reece is not only looking for his frog, but he is trying to come to terms with his parent’s recent separation. To write this story, Laurie researched frogs, wrote about her fear of learning to ride a bike, and thought a lot about what it is like to have your dad live in another city. She tried to make the reader laugh, while also providing moments of tenderness and insight. Laurie likes how realistic stories allow her to do all these things.



Teaching Ideas—Curriculum Connections


Pre-Reading Idea:

Reece is part of a family. He’s part of a neighbourhood. He’s a good friend to Aaron, the boy at school who always wears a bathrobe. What groups are you a part of? How do people in a group help one another? If someone was going through a tough time, what could you do to help so they feel less alone? If someone you knew lost their pet, what could you do or say to make things better?



Discussion Questions:

  1. Has anyone had an amphibian (frog, toad, salamander, or newt) for a pet? How about a reptile, such as a lizard or turtle? What did you like about it? What was challenging for you? What special things do amphibians and reptiles need to survive?

  2. In the book, Reece meets a boy who needs his help. He has to get really creative and come up with a bunch of different ways to teach Aaron to ride a bike. What is the best advice you can give someone if they’re afraid to do something? 

  3. One of Reece’s favourite activities is camping and hiking. It takes him many places like Ruckle Park on Salt Spring Island. Do you like to camp and hike? Where have you gone? Where would you like to go?

  4. Reece meets a singer songwriter on the ferry and together they make a song about his frog. It helps Reece to feel better and to remember all the things he likes about his amphibian friend. Music is a big part of people’s lives. If you were going to write a song about something, what would it be?

  5. Reece is getting used to his Dad living in another city. He texts him and talks to him on the phone. What are some of the other ways technology has helped us connect with each other even when we are far away?


Suggested Activities

Research Project. Burgess is a Northern Red-legged frog. What kind of frogs are in your area? Research frogs and see if you can answer any of these questions: Do frogs have good eyesight? How long does a frog live? Do frogs wear camouflage? Why is a frog cold-blooded? What is the main predator of frogs? What environmental problems do frogs face? What can we do to help?


Comics: Take a page and fold it into six squares. Each of these squares is called a panel. In this one-page comic, retell the story of Reece looking for his frog. You could show him putting up posters, talking to people and taking the ferry to Salt Spring Island. If you’d like to try another one-page story, you could retell the story of Reece teaching Aaron to ride a bike. This is called a subplot. 


A Leapfrog poem: Close your eyes and imagine a box, any old box, and just start pulling things out of this box. Let your mind leapfrog from item to item. Put each item on its own line. At first the list will be random, maybe a sock or a necklace, but if you give it a chance, some of these things might have a strange and beautiful connection to each other.


How-to Guide: In the story, Reece helps his friend to ride a bike, but he has to think hard because Aaron is a reluctant rider. Imagine you are teaching someone to do something they’re afraid to do. Maybe it’s public speaking or riding an escalator. It can be something you find really easy. Let’s give them a simple 5-step approach. Each sentence is a step that will take them closer to their goal.


Write a Letter: Imagine you are Burgess and you are out having an adventure. You want to tell Reece that you are okay and in fact, you are having the time of your life. Maybe you’ve gone to Disneyland or maybe you are touring Paris. Who knows where Burgess has gone? Write a letter home from the frog’s point of view.


Other Titles of Interest

BC Frogwatch Program:


Why Do Families Change? by Dr. Jillian Roberts


A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy


Dear Sylvia by Alan Cumyn


Silas’ Seven Grandparents by Anita Horrocks and Helen Flook





Other Books by the Author from Orca Book Publishers


Beach Baby (Board Book)


Forest Baby  (Board Book)



Review Quotes, Awards


“A gentle, realistic early chapter book.”  - Kirkus Reviews


Nominated for the Sliver Birch Express Award (May 2019)

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