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REVIEW: The Frog Princess (Book One of Tales of the Frog...

Dear Ms. Baker,

As I wandered through my local bookstore, the title of this book caught my eye. I love fairy tales retold from a modern perspective, given slight twists or are just cute. The cover, and that of the many sequels, certainly fits the cute profile. Alas, the book itself didn’t live up to my hopes.

Princess Emeralda loves to escape to the swamp that borders the castle where she lives. Since she rarely lives up to her mother’s expectations, this is often. It’s here that she finds a talking frog who claims that he’s a prince. Prince Eadric can’t prove to Emma that he truly is a prince so she’s reluctant to give him the kiss he asks for. That is until her mother decides to arrange Emma’s marriage to ghastly Prince Jorge. She’d rather kiss a frog then Jorge and in a fit of pique, she does.

Only instead of turning him back into the prince he claims to be, Emma becomes a frog as well. Well, now what are they supposed to do? Eadric has an idea. If they can find the witch he insulted and who then frogged him, maybe they’ll learn what went wrong since witches are bound to tell their victims the terms of any curse. Only these two are in for a rough time since talking frogs are on the list of ingredients needed to cast a certain spell and there’s a witch who wants to do just that.

The book falls curiously flat and took me far longer than it should have to become engaged in the story. There are some nice touches such as the crystal butterflies which alight on Aunt Grassina’s gem flowers and the light orbs which bob across her ceiling but most of the rest of the story is just sort of there. I never felt the oppressive gloom of the forest nor terror at being stuck in the witch Vannabe’s cottage. And some details, such as the nasty swim across the moat and the two frogs landing in dog pee in the castle throne room were just gross for no purpose.

There is almost an excess of detail in certain places – such as Emma learning to catch flies with her tongue or the varied animals, complete with names and habits in the witch’s lair – that dragged on without any purpose. Sure we learn that the captive mice finish each other’s sentences but why is that important? One of the spiders specialized in knots but how does that add to the story? Eadric hauls a vial of dragon’s breath – which I thought was cool sounding – through the forest only to have it basically disappear from the tale with no fanfare, unused by anyone for anything.

Emma’s mother, Queen Chartreuse, comes down hard on Emma, ragging her about her clumsiness but we don’t see enough of her or endure along with Emma enough of her scolding to make us care. Something is revealed about Emma’s parents’ marriage but, again, why? What’s done with it?

Some of the character names sounded off. I’m not sure if they were supposed to be funny – and might actually be funny to a child – but most of them just made me grimace. L’il Stinker the bat, Bright Country the horse, the witch Vannabe. None were clever, none were funny to me and all sounded corny at best.

The basis of Emma’s transformation to a frog made sense once it was explained and the lessons learned that friends aren’t always as you first imagine they’ll be nor whom you think are nicely done. Emma grows as a person and learns from her time as a frog. Eadric turns out to be a rather ordinary looking young man but both he and Emma have learned to see beyond the surface of people. But the story never really grabbed me, never became more than yet another unconventional princess tale. Some sections moved along at a sprightly pace but far more became a slog through the narrative that felt as if I were hopping all day through a forest, desperate to just get through.

I think young readers might enjoy having this story read to them. Perhaps the humor won’t fall as flatly as it did for me. But for older readers or adults, I think there are much more entertaining books using similar themes and plots than this one. When I found this book on the shelves of my local bookstore, I was excited to see there were several sequels. After reading it, I can only say that anyone who enjoyed this has more books they can read. I won’t be among them. C-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in paperback from Amazon or Powells. No ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

14 Comments

  1. JulieLeto
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 08:21:47

    My daughter was in third grade when she read this with me. We loved it! I’d definitely have given it a B+. I found Emma to be a great heroine, struggling with her identity and her abilities as a witch. Loved Eadric’s sense of humor, too. He’s such a guy. My daughter read the second book, DRAGON’S BREATH, on her own (she’s now in fifth grade) and loved it as well. We own ONCE UPON A CURSE, but it’s hard for her to read for fun when she’s in school because of homework (which is really sad to say while someone is in elementary school, but that’s the way it is.)

    I’m sorry it didn’t work for you, but if anyone out there has a girl in the 3-5 grade, I think these books are really clever and fun, with a very strong heroine who is learning how to find her own power, both magically and personally. And her relationship with Eadric is totally healthy. I love that she doesn’t choose the most handsome prince, but the one who treats her like an equal.

  2. votermom
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 08:33:04

    My daughter read this and at least 4 sequels a year ago when she was 10, and she found them funny and exciting. I wasn’t able to finish reading the first book though; I just lost interest. I would agree with your review. Fun for kids.

    There are a lot of juvenile and YA books that we both read and enjoyed — off the top of my head I can think of The Tamora Pierce Alanna books, Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart books, Gail Carson Levine’s Princess Tales and her other fairytale books (though not so much the Tinkerbell ones).

  3. Jayne
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 08:51:23

    My daughter read the second book, DRAGON'S BREATH, on her own (she's now in fifth grade) and loved it as well. We own ONCE UPON A CURSE, but it's hard for her to read for fun when she's in school because of homework (which is really sad to say while someone is in elementary school, but that's the way it is.)

    Julie, is something actually done with the vial of dragon’s breath in that story? It was just such a neat detail in the story and I hated to see it go unused – basically.

    I'm sorry it didn't work for you, but if anyone out there has a girl in the 3-5 grade, I think these books are really clever and fun, with a very strong heroine who is learning how to find her own power, both magically and personally. And her relationship with Eadric is totally healthy. I love that she doesn't choose the most handsome prince, but the one who treats her like an equal.

    I also liked that Eadric wasn’t the proverbial handsome prince. I tried to allude to this with my statement that each grew to see beneath the surface. I guess I didn’t make it clear enough. I’m glad your daughter is enjoying the series. I almost hated not to be able to buy the other books since they have such nice covers but I don’t have enough of a book budget to buy books just for that reason alone. ;)

  4. Jayne
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 08:55:37

    There are a lot of juvenile and YA books that we both read and enjoyed -’ off the top of my head I can think of The Tamora Pierce Alanna books, Cornelia Funke's Inkheart books, Gail Carson Levine's Princess Tales and her other fairytale books (though not so much the Tinkerbell ones).

    Thanks for the recs, votermom. Children’s books are a guilty pleasure of mine as evidenced by the huge stack of them I bought over the years just for me.

  5. JulieLeto
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 09:34:29

    I didn’t read the second book myself, as she read that one on her own, but from our discussions, it wasn’t that particular vial that helped them out in the next book, but the fact that they had it gave them information they needed to get the breath of a blue dragon, which they needed to undo something to do with Grassina and her boyfriend the otter. Dragons as creatures play a big role in the second book, whereas the little bat is hardly in it at all. Also, the prince who Emma spurned in the first book comes back in as his father declares war against Emma’s father. So there’s a lot going on.

    And I agree…the covers are great. Simple, but pretty and eye-catching.

    Right now, my daughter is reading 39 CLUES. It’s a whole multi-media blitz type book experience…books, trading cards, interactive website. She loved the first book (which surrounds a mystery set in Paris) and she just started the second book last week. So far, male authors. I try to get her to read as many women as possible, LOL!

  6. Jayne
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 09:40:20

    as she read that one on her own

    Brava! I love to hear about a book reading woman in the making.

  7. JulieLeto
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 11:32:39

    Poor kid doesn’t have a choice.

    You’ll be very happy to know that I went to my daughter’s class for the National Teach-In. It was the first time I’d done it and the questions from her classmates were incredibly thoughtful and intelligent…just the same questions as adults ask at appearances, frankly.

    I believe that readers are made in elementary school, but lost in middle school and high school when they are forced to read the classics and have no time to read for fun. I refuse to let this happen to my child, but I know it’s an issue that all parents who are readers need to be aware of and do the best to combat.

  8. votermom
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 12:09:31

    My 11yo reads to me! When she gets excited about what she’s reading she’ll say “listen to this Mom!”
    (And I am very proud of my self-restraint when she was reading me excerpts from Twilight …. can’t stand them but as former B. Cartland fan I guess I have no room to condescend.)

  9. Susan/DC
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 13:26:33

    My first thought was that this reminded me of “The Prince of the Pond”, a children’s book by Donna Jo Napoli. That book is written from the POV of the female frog who falls in love with the prince in his frog form. It’s both hysterically funny and quite a sweet love story as well. In fact, I’ve read adult romances with less successfully drawn relationships. My boys and I both loved it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Pond-Otherwise-Known-Fawg/dp/0140371516/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229023297&sr=8-1

  10. SonomaLass
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 23:42:40

    My kids’ favorite for re-told fairy tales was always John Scieszka author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. The Frog Prince, Continued is quite clever, as I recall. Mostly for younger readers, but then when they’re older, they can read his Time Warp Trio series!

  11. Aldona
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 11:46:05

    Ahah. I read this book when I was in grade 5. I liked it, I even found myself smiling during the book. I guess it is more of an elementary read and enjoyable to younger kids, since they might not focus too much on those missed details you spoke about. Since I haven’t read it in a while I can’t really say much just that it was a cute story. I’m thinking of rereading it now just to see it in a different perspective but after this review I’m worried it might ruin my past thoughts about it.

  12. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 12:10:15

    Aldona, I kinda thought it might be more geared towards younger readers. Did you ever read any of the sequels?

  13. Aldona
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 12:12:21

    Yes I know you did, as you said in your review :] But no I didn’t read any of the sequels. I might though, I was just thinking about it recently.

  14. Lexi
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 00:43:34

    I must have read these books a hundred times. They are perfectly suited to teens and preteens with a good, wholesome message. The characters were well developed and Baker put a new spin on an old story. I give the books an A-.

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