Written by Heather McLeod, Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011
“If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a prince.”
This castle contains: A prince, who happens to be a frog
Ella meets a frog while she’s out playing and the frog asks for a kiss, telling her he was turned into a prince by his fairy godmother. Instead of kissing him, Ella puts him in her pocket and goes on her way. He keeps pestering her to kiss him and she asks what will happen if he turns into a prince. He answers that his parents will make her his princess and they will spend their days studying languages, etiquette, warfare, law and other important subjects. She asks about time for play and he says it’s not appropriate for royalty. Ella decides she’s rather have a talking frog than a prince. For a while, he keeps trying for his kiss and then he decides to just accept the situation and becomes Ella’s playmate. One day, a servant of the king comes looking for him and takes him back to the castle. After two weeks, he comes back, still a frog, and explains that only the kiss of a true friend can change him. He also says that he’s made an agreement with his parents that allows time for play when he changes back. He asks Ella one more time and she kisses him.
Author Heather McLeod offers a new take on the frog prince story in this book by giving us a girl with no interest in becoming a princess and a frog prince with something to learn about leisure time. Despite what you may infer from its title, there’s no romantic angle in this story. Ella and the frog form a friendship through playing together and when he comes back at the end for his transformative kiss, it’s based on their friendship and not on any implication of a romance between them. This, to me, is a cool twist on the original fable, as is the idea of a female lead who would rather have a talking frog than a prince. I love that she asks him what happens after he becomes a prince.
The artwork, from illustrator Brooke Kerrigan, does a wonderful job of perfectly depicting Ella’s appearance. She is drawn as a pretty girl with long hair in casual and kind of baggy clothes, with a backwards baseball cap and sneakers. I don’t feel that this representation goes too far in either direction, making her look either too boyish or too girly (which is what you sometimes get with a girl-who-likes-sports character), but instead hit on a very realistic portrayal of a girl with layers to her personality. The endpapers in the back of the book contain the epilogue to the story, where we see Ella and the prince (who is not a frog anymore) happily going for a swim.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the happiest people know how to balance the time they spend on studying and the time they spend just having fun.