Princess Esmerelda – better known as Emma – is hardly what one expects from a princess. Her laugh is more of a donkey’s bray than tinkling bells, and she would rather spend time in the swamp than chitchat with a prince. While trying to avoid a particularly unwanted suitor, she stumbles across a talking frog that insists he used to be human. All he needs to turn back into a prince is for Emma to kiss him. Reluctantly she agrees. But when she puckers up the result is not what either of them were expecting: Instead of Eadric becoming human, Emma is turned into a frog!
This book was quite cute. It had a mostly unexpected twist on an old fairy tale, and contained quite a bit of humor. The princess was pro-active, literacy helped to save the day, and the magic followed its own internal rules. In short, the book had everything I need to make me love it. And yet, somehow, I didn’t. I’m not sure why, but I just couldn’t get hooked.
Part of it was that Emma keeps telling us that she finds Eadric obnoxious, when really he hasn’t done anything terribly annoying. It’s obvious that the author was just trying to set up some romantic tension and needed to do it in a manner that the average 8-12 year old could relate to. I can understand that. Most kids in that age group still think boys are icky and would either not understand or be bored by standard romantic tropes. But at the same time, being constantly told something, instead of being shown, is annoying.
Other than that, though, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that rubbed me the wrong way. I have had legions of girls, and many of their mothers, tell me that they absolutely loved this book, and its many sequels fly off my shelves. So obviously I am in the minority. I didn’t think it was a bad book, just not one that I was in love with. Perhaps I was simply overestimating it based on all of the praise other people had given to me.
Disney’s Frog Princess movie will be out soon, and while it is very different in most respects, the central premise (kiss turns princess into frog) appears to be the same. I suspect that a lot of kids will end up reading this book thinking it is about the movie, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it will expose them to this entire series.