Nix, Garth. Frogkisser! New York: Scholastic, 2017.
This is the second book I received for the Christmas Book Flood on Christmas Eve. I asked the daughter who gave it to me why she thought I’d like it. First, she knows that I like Garth Nix. Second, she read the acknowledgements in the back of the book. Here is what the author wrote and what influenced her choice. He begins by acknowledging that all writers are influenced by the books they read. Sometimes the influence is apparent and sometimes it is not.
With this book, I would like to particularly acknowledge the inspiration and positive influence that came from my youthful reading (and frequent rereading in later years) of the works of Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Dianna Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. There are many other writers who have influenced my work, of course, but I think for Frogkisser! these five deserve special mention.
Wow! Some of my favorites! I am going to have to look up Nicholas Stuart Gray. The others are writers of stories about reluctant or unexpected heroes and heroines. Thank you Sarah for this wonderful book!
This book, as it happens, is about a reluctant heroine. A princess, who just wants to be left to read, study, and be a companion to the royal dogs. Enter Princess Anya, second daughter, to the queen of Trallonia. As the story opens, Trallonia has lost its queen and her consort. The queen died first. Anya’s father married Countess Yselde, an enthusiastic botanist, who cared not for children. After a year, he passed away. Countess Yselde married Duke Rikard. While Countess Yselde could have been the evil step-mother, she is merely disinterested. Duke Rikard, on the other hand, is the evil step-parent of this story. He is a sorcerer and he wants to be king. As the story opens, Anya’s sister, Morven is nearly sixteen. At sixteen, she will be old enough to wed and to begin her reign as queen. Duke Rikard wants to prevent this from happening, after all he has grand ambitions, first Trallonia and then the world.
Duke Rikard makes a strategic error. He turns Morven’s current beau, Prince Denholm, into a frog. Had he waited a little while, Morven would have found another beau, she was notoriously fickle. Anya, the more practical of the two, tells Morven to dry up her tears and kiss Frog Prince Denholm and turn him back. He is after all her theoretical true love. Unfortunately, Denholm has escaped through the window and into the moat.
Here is where Anya’s adventures begin. She finds a frog, but Morven refuses to kiss the icky thing. Anya, goes to her friend the librarian, Gotfried. They discover that not only true love’s kiss will reverse this spell, but so will the Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm and he just happens to have a small amount. Anya anoints her lips with the balm and kisses the frog that she thought was Prince Denholm. Oops! Not Prince Denholm, but the prince of the month from last November. It seems the Duke has been transforming all Morven’s suitors into frogs. He was taking no chances!
After feeling Anya’s reversal of his spell, he is determined to send her halfway across the world to a very good school even though it is a perilous journey to get there. At this point, Anya takes counsel with Tanitha, oldest and wisest of the Royal Dogs. She is advised to go on a quest to find help to defeat the Duke. Like all reluctant heroines, she cries, “Why me!” She remembers that her real parents would want her to do the right thing. Reluctantly, she leaves the dubious safety of her home. With Ardent, the royal dog who has a quest of his own, she begins her quest.
Her quest, like most, takes her all over the country side. She is pursued by transmogrified weasels and other agents of the Duke’s. She befriends, Shrub, a thief boy, who was turned into a newt. She meets Merlin and the seven dwarves. She meets Bert, leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers, who tells her about the All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs. All of them have a part to play in her quest.
You must read this book. It is a hoot! Will Anya be able to defeat Duke Rikard? Will she be able to save Princess Morven? Once saved will Morven restore the All-Encompassing Bill? Will that restore the kingdom? Can Anya make enough lip balm to change back all the people the Duke and his fellow sorcerers have turned into frogs and other animals? Does she get chapped lips? You must read this book. It turns the fairy tale of the Frog Prince on its ear.