Anya and her older sister Morven are the heirs to the throne of Trallonia. Morven is three months off turning 16 and being crowned Queen when Prince Denholm, whom she currently loves, is turned into a frog by Duke Rikard, the girls’ stepstepfather. The Duke, a wicked sorcerer, married their stepmother and his powers are increasing. Anya agrees to help distraught Morven and uncovers the Duke’s evil intentions. Anya must use the Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm to bring the prince back to his human form. The lip balm allows any set of lips to kiss a transformee and return him or her to their former state. However, when Anya kisses the frog it is in fact another prince. It should be easy just to get more lip balm, right? But Anya used the last of it. Now, obtaining the recipe for the spell from the palace librarian Gotfried, she must find all the ingredients to make a new batch. So begins the best Quest I have read in a long, long time. It is also a big Quest, for it is capitalised (p. 41). Anya’s companion, (for everyone needs a Quest companion) is one of the Palace’s talking dogs. The matriarch of the dogs, Tanitha, has known for some time of Duke Rikard’s wickedness and she, like many other palace staff and creatures, are supporting Anya in her Quest. On the Quest Anya meets an array of people, and animals, and gathers others who have been transformed. They wish to have their transformation reversed and join Anya in her Quest. This is no simple Quest and the ingredients not easily located.
Frogkisser is a refreshingly new fairy tale from one of Australia’s finest and loved authors. The language is rich and would make an entertaining read aloud. It is written so well, not a keen re-reader of books, I will be re-visiting this often. The characterisation is strong, with those who should be liked likeable, and those who should not, hated, with abundance! Nix’s use of the genre is unique and will appeal to a wide variety of ages. Characters and elements of traditional fairy tales are present but not in the manner we know them as. Nix is clever in combining the familiarity and tradition with twists and differences. I am loath to reveal these, as they will spoil the surprise for prospective readers. Suffice to say all is very rewarding and satisfying.
Garth Nix’s early fans, those who grew up on Sabriel and Keys to the Kingdom, will not be too old for this new gem. They might even be reading this to their own children not to far in the future. What a wonderful author to share with young ones. Frogkisser is to become a movie from Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios.
Highly recommended for public and school libraries, of all ages.
- List the well-known fairy tales mentioned throughout the text. Using a venn diagram, look at differences and similarities between the two.
- Re-write your own twisted fairy tale.
- Read various fractured fairy tales and discuss their difference and similarities.
- Make smaller words from the word transmogrification.
- Look at word roots – where does transmogrification come from?
- As you read the book, or listen to it being read, make a class list of words you have not heard before. Find their meanings and use them in sentences. What other words mean the same? Why do you think Garth Nix might have chosen these words? Do their similes sounds as good in the same sentence?
- Storyboard the chapters from the book, or certain scenes from the story.
Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for supplying this book for review.