Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Popular children’s author Garth Nix raids a storehouse of fairy-tale elements to roll out this fresh and funny quest tale.

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix.  Scholastic, 2017, 372 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-15

Princess Anya wants to be a wizard, and since her older sister Princess Morven is heir to the kingdom, it’s not an unreasonable ambition.  But since their evil step-stepfather, Duke Rikard married their stepmother, nothing is simple.  Rikard is a sorcerer, and not the good kind.  Their first clue was when he transformed Denholm, one of Morven’s princely suitors, into a frog.  And Denholm might not have been the first.  True love’s kiss can change him back, but flighty Morven has already fallen in love with someone else.  Anya discovers a loophole, however: any princess can do the job with the aid of a magical lip balm made from five rare ingredients.  Anya finds herself on a quest to collect the items and kiss the frog, but her mission quickly expands to saving the kingdom and righting wrongs.  Not that she asked for any of this.

Frogkisser! stirs familiar fairy-tale tropes into a kettle—er, cauldron—and serves them up with a smile, not a smirk.  The humor flashes frequently—see for instance Duke Rikard’s indictment for “murder, forcible transformation, and improper cackling.”  But several noble, time-tested themes get their due as well, such as good vs. evil, the transformative power of love, the redemption of cowards and thieves, and justice tempered with mercy.  Anya makes a winning protagonist, though her personality (typically, in stories like this), is overshadowed by secondary characters.  Ardent, one of the royal dogs, is such a character: a faithful companion who frequently resorts to puppylike excess.

One complaint: the plot is so overrun with PC feminism that stock masculine characters, in particular the good wizard, the valiant knight, and the outlaw chief, are all women.  One or two is fine, but all three?  This is a bit irritating, but overall Frogkisser! is likeable and fun.

Cautions: None

Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic value: 4.5

 

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Janie

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

3 Comments

  1. Amanda Bird on January 3, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Thank you for this review. Can anyone provide a review or insights about Garth Nix’s other books, i.e. the Keys to the Kingdom series?

    • Janie on January 4, 2018 at 5:14 am

      Amanda,
      Frogkisser! is the only Garth Nix books we’ve reviewed so far. Since he’s a big name in children’s publishing, this is an unfortunate oversight, and we wish our time were not so limited. But keep checking and we’ll see if one of us can get around to it!

  2. Elizabeth on July 24, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    My son is currently listening to Nix’s book Have Sword, Will Travel. He’s loving it, but I haven’t screened it so I’m curious.

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