Few things are more disappointing than a premise I love in a book that just didn’t work for me. It’s very rare that you get a second chance at that original brilliant premise. I was disappointed by The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker, even though I loved the idea of the princess turning into a frog when she kisses the enchanted prince–so I was thrilled to hear about Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde, a story about a princess turning into a frog, from an author I’ve greatly enjoyed in the past.
Frogged is about Princess Imogene, twelve-almost-thirteen, and worried that she’s not a very good princess. When she meets a talking frog, she tries to help by kissing him, and ends up trading places–he’s restored to being a boy, and she becomes a frog. Since he quite rudely refuses to help, Imogene sets off herself in search of the witch who cast the spell. Along the way, she meets new enemies, secures unexpected allies, becomes a star attraction in a terrible theatre company, and learns something about herself and the people around her.
This is not the same story as The Frog Princess, although the parallels are inescapable. Happily, I liked this one much better. It’s a simple story and the target age is young (perhaps 8-10), and there isn’t a huge amount of depth or complexity…but the voice was strong, there was a nice amount of humor, and the story was reliably entertaining.
An ordinary, possibly clumsy, not-stereotypical-beautiful princess has becomes something of a stereotype itself (I can think of five others without even trying), but Imogene has her own unique points. I like that she very much feels 12-almost-13, and most of her problems are chalked up to being a difficult age more than anything else. Some “ordinary princesses” are almost overpowering in their identity as “ordinary,” and become unusual by swinging so far that direction.
I also particularly liked an arc of learning Imogene goes through about changing how she sees others. She’s always good-hearted, but she comes to realize that some people she thinks she understands have unexpected depths (for good and ill), and also that people don’t always perceive her the way she expects.
My favorite character apart from Imogene is the witch, who is gloriously untroubled by anyone else’s problems. She’s not a wicked witch, exactly, and feels quite comfortable in her own mind that her actions have been reasonable (and she makes a convincing case). She’s also not a Glinda-type, who wants the heroine to solve her problems herself so that she can learn the true lesson. She’s simply practical, unsentimental and takes it for granted that everyone should take responsibility for handling their own lives. She might drive me crazy in real life, but she’s remarkably refreshing in this kind of story.
Actually, a lot of the twists on traditional fairy tales are refreshing in here. But I do tend to like that kind of thing. 🙂
Author’s Site: http://www.vivianvandevelde.com/
Buy it here: Frogged