A princess ought to be as good as she is beautiful.” So says The Art of Being a Princess, which Princess Imogene is supposed to be reading. But since she is neither particularly good nor all that beautiful, she skips her homework to visit the pond. There she meets a talking frog who claims to be a prince under a witch’s spell. Imogene kindly kisses him to remove the spell—and gets turned into a frog herself! Now the only way for the princess to un-frog herself is to convince someone else to kiss her. But before she can figure out a plan, Imogene gets kidnapped and becomes the unwilling star attraction in a third-rate traveling theater company. Can she find a way to undo the witch’s spell—or will she be frogged forever?
Frogged is Vande Velde’s take on the “Frog Princess” fairy tale (where the princess who kisses the frog gets turned into a frog herself), but she does it by circumventing everything about the fairy tale and adding a twist to the spell. It’s a refreshing read, but it’s also amazingly funny mostly due to Imogene.
Imogene, for being only twelve, has fantastic snark. She gets into full-form during her travels with the theater company, and what takes the cake is that she’s a frog, so just picture a frog making a sarcastic comment and you get 80% of what Imogene does while with the traveling theater. She also becomes a crow and flies around and discusses the finer points of poetry with Ned, the leader of the company.
As I said, Vande Velde subverts a lot of this fairy tale, so that nothing is as it seems: not the “frog prince,” or the story he gives, or the spell, or the witch, or Imogene’s route out of froggery. I’m glad that she doesn’t play it straight, since Frogged has a lot more charm and memorable moments attached to it than E. D. Baker’s The Frog Princess(the “princess gets turned into a frog” fairy tale played straight). And it gives a nice, fresh perspective to the fairy tale, which is always appreciated.
One thing that bothered me slightly was that China, Africa, etc. were mentioned but to all intents and purposes the kingdom Imogene’s parent’s rule has no resemblance to any country on Earth, so in that respect the worldbuilding is rather poor if Vande Velde just created this made-up kingdom and squashed it in the world somewhere.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fairy Tale, Middle Grade
“I heard of parrots, Bertie. This is not that backwards of a place. But this is a frog, Bertie, not a bird.”
Bertie proved he was not the sort to ever back down from a debate. “I’m getting to that, my sweet. So in high society there’s always one duchess who wants to out-fashion another, and the very newest thing is to have a speaking frog from remotest China.”
“I thought you said it was an African speaking frog.”
“No, the parrots are from Africa; the frogs are from China.”
“You said Africa.”
Bertie considered. “Yes, my treasure, but the Chinese part of Africa.”
Imogene cut into the bickering. “Excuse me for interrupting,” she said, “but actually I’m from here. You see, I’m Princess Imogene, and—”
Luella asked Bertie, “If it’s a Chinese speaking frog, then how come I can understand what it’s saying? How come it don’t speak Chinese?”
Frogged is delightful, an unique, fresh look at the “Frog Princess” fairy tale where Vande Velde doesn’t play by the rules and happily twists everything around while Imogene snarks from her bucket. The worldbuilding is confusing and a little sloppy, in my opinion, but the tale itself is wonderful.