Frogkisser!

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Frogkisser! Book Poster Image
Bold princess gets a silly nickname in fun questing tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In the acknowledgements, the author calls out five writers he read in his youth who inspired this work: Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Diana Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. Avid readers can compare ideas and styles of these writers with what they see in this book. Fans of fairy tale mash-ups can think about the author's ideas on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," frog princes, and more.

Positive Messages

A line in Chapter 20 encapsulates the feminist message you'll find here: "I don't expect to need rescuing. I'm not that kind of princess." Themes of empowerment for all people and actively changing what's wrong in your community instead of saying "someone should do something" also resonate. When asked why each magical item of power is given a flaw, a wizard answers that power is always best limited.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anya started out as a privileged and sheltered princess who wanted to oust her stepstepfather, the evil sorcerer, and then go to her library and study all day. On her quest she opens her eyes to a wider world that needs positive rulers and takes up the cause to make the world better. She also endures kissing many frogs.

Violence

In the scariest scene, Anya is attacked by a weasel-turned-human who tries to bite her throat. Other weasel creatures are heard attacking humans at a distance, with some talk of casualties and injuries. After that, even the end battle is more at a distance. We hear of about a dozen deaths, including animals, and Anya witnesses one assassin take an arrow to the throat. People fall or are tossed from towers with one sad death and holes dug into cheeks from an owl's talons. A skeleton is found in a basement. Talk that Anya's parents died when she was young.

Sex

Lots of kissing but only once for love. The rest of the time it's done with a magic lip balm for the purpose of changing animals back to their original forms.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Anya is offered wine at dinner and declines. She's declared wise for her choice. Witches drink beer and wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Frogkisser! is a humorous fairy tale/knight tale mash-up by Garth Nix, the author of the best-selling (and darker) Old Kingdom series and the Keys to the Kingdom series. The publisher recommends it for age 12 and up, but it can be enjoyed by advanced readers as young as 10 thanks to its light tone and positive themes. Anya, the questing princess who becomes known as Frogkisser, declares once that "I don't expect to need rescuing. I'm not that kind of princess." Themes of empowerment for all people and actively changing what's wrong in your community instead of saying "someone should do something" also resonate. Violence is mostly at a distance here, except for once when a weasel-turned-human tries to bite Anya's throat. After that, we hear of about a dozen deaths in battle, including animals, and Anya witnesses one assassin take an arrow to the throat. People fall or are tossed from towers, with one sad death and holes dug into cheeks from an owl's talons. Of course there's lots of kissing, but only once is it romantic. The rest of the time it's about freeing animals with the help of a magic lip balm.

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What's the story?

In FROGKISSER! Princess Anya knows the world would thank her if her stepstepfather, the evil sorcerer Duke Rikard, were defeated. Her sister Morven would, too, after the Duke turns one of her suitors, Prince Denholm, into a frog and tosses him in the moat. Anya gives Morven her solemn promise that she'll find Denholm just as the Duke threatens to send Anya away to "school" to be rid of her. With the help of Ardent, one of the royal dogs, Anya finds the frog and escapes the castle carrying a complicated recipe for a lip balm that allows a princess such as herself to kiss any transformed creature back to its true form -- without the lovey-dovey part. Anya knows she'll need help getting all the odd ingredients in the recipe as much as she needs help defeating Rikard and fighting off the horde of transformed weasel-men he has sent after her. At every stop she finds robbers, thieves, druids, animals, wizards, and dwarves willing to help and almost as many transfigured animals in need of her magic lip balm. Anya's reputation precedes her everywhere she goes on her quest, and soon Princess Anya is simply known as Frogkisser.

Is it any good?

When an independent princess goes questing in a mash-up of fairy tales and Arthurian legend, you can expect hijinks, but deeper messages of empowerment and community here are a nice bonus. With a title like Frogkisser!, you know the book isn't taking itself too seriously. Princess Anya does have serious intentions of defeating her evil stepstepfather (as she calls him) and learns a lot on her quest about the wider world and what people really need in a ruler and their government. The characters around Anya add a circus atmosphere. Her entourage includes a thief transformed into a giant newt, an otter partly transformed into a human, a frog prince, and a talking, well-educated palace dog.

Garth Nix, who's best known for the much darker Old Kingdom series, has loads of fun introducing oddball characters and world-building here. Sometimes all the clever details slow down the story, but it still wraps up with a fun flourish -- and, no big spoiler, lots of frog kissing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Anya learns about the wider world in Frogkisser!. How does it change her beliefs about how her land should be ruled?

  • The press gets lampooned when Anya encounters the many Gerald the Heralds on her quest. How do they report the news? How does it remind you of news you sometimes hear in the real world?

  • What do you think is next for Anya? Would you read more of her adventures? Do you think any of the adventures will center on her finding a prince? Why, or why not?

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