Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Frogs, princesses and princes

Posted on | March 24, 2010 | 5 Comments

fantastic_fiction_buttonToday’s Fantastic Fiction for Kids post comes from Janelle at Brimful Curiosities. Janelle’s blog features reviews and posts on children’s books, music, educational products, toys and more. Every week I make a point of going through her “Full to the Brim” Kid’s Book Giveaway List – a round up of kidlit giveaways all over the blogosphere.

Here’s a bit about Janelle: “I have many early memories of reading together with my mom and can clearly recall reciting nursery rhymes out of a worn Mother Goose book. When I had my own children I wanted to create similar memories and started building a home library. I’m lucky to be a stay-at-home mom and have two kids, a daughter (5) and son (2). We read several books each week and share our favorites on the Brimful Curiosities blog. I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but after graduation from college I decided to work in a library before settling down to raise a family!”

Photo: Roberto Verzo

Over the last few months Janelle has been researching stories based on or inspired by Grimm’s The Frog King and today we get to reap the fruits of her labour – so without further ado I now hand you over to Janelle:

Pick up a book involving a princess and a frog and you never know what you’ll find. Beheaded, thrown against the wall, spending evenings on a pillow or a romantic kiss – the frog’s transformational ending varies with each retelling. In most retellings of the Grimm’s fairy tale version, the princess does NOT kiss the frog. Instead, the cruel princess treats the frog very poorly and eventually the frog transforms after the princess violently throws him against the wall. That really wasn’t the type of story I wanted to read to my preschooler, so I began an exhaustive search for a less violent, age-appropriate version. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Frog Prince by Jan Ormerod

Ormerod’s elegant version combines beautiful, Art Nouveau styled illustrations with a well-written, non-violent retelling of the classic fairy tale. A queen, instead of a king, forces the princess to keep her promise to the frog. Eventually, the princess grows to love the frog and the frog transforms to green-attired prince after sleeping three nights on the princess’ pillow. The amazingly detailed illustrations drawn using muted colors are framed by elaborate borders of dancing plants, insects, amphibians and other creatures. [Other options of well-illustrated books with a similar non-violent plot include: The Princess and the Frog by Rachel Isadora; The Frog Prince retold by Fiona Black, illustrated by Wayne Parmenter]

The Frog Prince by Gerda Neubacher

Surprisingly, very few versions depict the princess actually kissing the frog. In this happily-ever-after tale, a repentant princess named Anna does indeed give the frog that remarkable kiss after she realizes she has hurt his feelings. The colorful paintings of the large-eyed frog and purple clothed princess with long, flowing hair perfectly fit this fairy tale.

For those looking for the traditional version of the story where the princess throws the frog against the wall and where Iron Henry makes an appearance, we recommend the The Frog Prince by Walter Crane. There is no denying that Crane is one of the greats in the children’s book illustration world. His gorgeous work in The Frog Prince shows precision and attention to detail. His version is available for viewing free online at the Internet Archive: http://www.archive.org/details/frogprince00cran.

The Frog Prince by Kathy-Jo Wargin, illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert

Very few adaptations show a picture of the evil witch who turns the prince into a frog and this is one of the few. Gilbert’s luxurious illustrations portray the splendor of the royalty – the magnificent princess wears elaborate, heavy gowns and numerous jewels. Truly a feast for the eyes, but remember, the frog does get tossed at a wall in this version.

A Frog Prince by Alix Berenzy

An unusual variant of The Frog Prince story – finally, that awful princess doesn’t win the prize prince! Berenzy’s unique tale is told from the frog’s view point. After getting treated poorly by the princess, the frog is released and searches for his true love. It’s hard not to root for this kind and brave frog. The message that real beauty lies beneath rings loud and clear in the telling. The emotion-filled, stunning illustrations are wonderfully done, but may be a little dark for very young children.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out a version of the Russian folktale, The Frog Princess. This frog bride tale isn’t as well-known as The Frog Prince, but is very worth reading. We liked the adaption below, mostly because it wasn’t quite as long as the other versions.

The Frog Princess adapted by Laura Cecil, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

Suited for the preschool age and above, in this adaptation, a queen encourages her three sons to find brides by shooting arrows. Marco, the youngest son, finds his arrow near a green frog. The frog miraculously performs the queen’s tasks earning the prince the title of king. Bright watercolor illustrations accompany the interesting, dialog filled text. [Another recommended option: The Frog Princess by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gennady Spirin]

Some music to enjoy alongside this wonderful selection could include:

  • Kiss that frog by Peter Gabriel
  • You Gotta Kiss A lot of Frogs to Find a Prince by Karen Dee
  • The album The Frog Princess by Deborah Henson-Conant (this is a mixture of narrated story and music – you can hear an excerpt here)
  • The frog princess by The Divine Comedy
  • The frog prince by Keane
  • Photo: Deney Terrio

    We like the look of these frog activities:

  • A super selection of frogs from Kids Craft Weekly – I particularly like the dingly dangly box frogs
  • Rock frogs from Martha Stewart – once you’ve made them they could live all over your garden!
  • Use a party tooter/blower to make a fly catching frog
  • Learn how to make a frog out of modelling balloons
  • Use a paper plate and handprints to make this cute frog from Busy Bee Kids Crafts


  • Any round up of Frog Prince stories wouldn’t be complete without mentioning SurLaLune’s essay “The Tale of a Frog Kissed into a Prince“, and perhaps you know of some additional versions of this tale – if so Janelle and I would be very pleased to hear about them!


    I’m sure you’ll agree with me that today’s contribution from Janelle has been wonderful – a great selection of books with lots to think about and enjoy. Please do pop over to her blog and say hello – and don’t forget to let us know about any other Frog Prince/Princess books you know of!

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    Comments

    5 Responses to “Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Frogs, princesses and princes”

    1. Natalie
      March 24th, 2010 @ 1:57 am

      What an excellent round-up of Princess and the Frog stories. Interestingly, I distinctly remember Frog Princess tales from my childhood (I was born and raised in Soviet Union). They are very elaborate, and I will definitely look for a version of this story in English shortly.

    2. Christianne @ Little Page Turners
      March 24th, 2010 @ 2:48 am

      Don’t forget “The Frog Prince Continued” by Jon Scieszka! This quirky and hilarious book continues the story AFTER the frog prince marries the princess. Longing for his former froggy life, he goes out in search of a witch to change him back into a frog, and ends up running into the witches from other classic fairy tales.

    3. Choxbox
      March 24th, 2010 @ 5:40 am

      Awesome Zoe, as usual.

      Have you come across James Finn Garner’s Politically Correct Stories? Includes a politically correct version of The Frog prince and it is hilarious! My older kid has loved the book for a while now. Not for a pre-schooler of course.

    4. Zoe
      March 24th, 2010 @ 8:55 am

      Hi Natalie,

      That would be great if you could have a look for us – and if you find a link to any online in Russian that would be interesting too.

      Hi Christianne,
      Thanks for the suggestion! Here’s the link for anyone who wants to check it out:
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Frog-Prince-Continued-Picture-Puffin/dp/014054285X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269419919&sr=8-1

      Hi Choxbox,
      Thanks for another suggestion. Again, here’s the link:
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Politically-Correct-Bedtime-Stories-Collection/dp/028563223X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269419985&sr=1-1

    5. Tweets that mention Fantastic Fiction for Kids – Frogs, princesses and princes | Playing by the book -- Topsy.com
      March 24th, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

      [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brimful Curiosities, Zoe Toft. Zoe Toft said: Latest post – on picture books inspired by Grimm's The Frog King http://tiny.cc/nw6md [...]

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