Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker Book Review / Disney's The Princess and the Frog

***UPDATE: View my full Princess, Prince and Frog Books - A Children's Booklist post here:

My daughter is excitedly awaiting her first visit to the movie theater. Sometime very soon she will watch Disney's newest princess movie, The Princess and the Frog. To prepare her for her movie experience, I decided to introduce her to a few different print versions that helped inspire the movie.
'The Frog answered, " Dresses, or jewels, or golden crowns, are not for me ; but if thou wilt love me, and let me be thy companion and playfellow, and sit at thy table, and eat from thy little golden plate, and drink out of thy cup, and sleep in thy little bed, -if thou wilt promise me all these, then will I dive down and fetch up thy golden ball."' - The Frog Prince
Obviously the first book we turned to was the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, The Frog Prince. Did you know that in the original version of the tale, the princess does NOT kiss the frog? Instead, she throws him violently at the wall and he magically transforms. She's not a very nice princess. Don't believe me? Read for yourself the gorgeously illustrated Walter Crane version available online at the Internet Archive:

After reading the original version, I immediately searched for less violent books and checked out several other Princess/Prince/Frog picture books from the library. That original story has been told, retold and reworked many times! (View a full list of Princess, Prince and Frog Books - A Children's Booklist.) The kissing part turns up frequently in these versions.

At the library, we also stumbled upon the middle grade book, The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker, a twist on the well-known fairy tale but in this case the princess kisses the frog and she turns into a FROG. Disney obtained the rights to the book and their new movie is ever so slightly inspired by Baker's work. Even though the book's target audience is much older than my preschooler, she has a pretty good attention span, so I spent the last two weeks reading one chapter aloud per night.
"I'm a frog and it's your fault! This wasn't supposed to happen. You said you would turn back into a prince. You never said I could turn into a frog!" - The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (November 2002); 200 pages; ISBN 9781582347998
In Baker's light and humorous fairy tale adventure, 14-year-old Princess Emeralda runs to the swamp in an attempt to avoid spending the day with her mother and an unfit suitor. She stumbles upon an obnoxious, talking frog (Prince Eadric) who tells her all needs a kiss and he'll turn back into a prince. At first she balks at his request, but eventually feels sorry for him and gives him his kiss. Surprisingly, the magic spell doesn't work correctly and she also turns into a frog. The remainder of the book tells of the two frogs' adventures and their quest to return to their human life. They try avoid predators, fall into the hands of an inexperienced witch, make a few unlikely friends and search for Emeralda's aunt Grassina, who is an accomplished witch. The entertaining book has several amusing characters and plenty of funny moments, though my preschool daughter lost interest every once and awhile when Baker would become overly descriptive of the natural world. The little bat named L'il was her favorite character besides the princess. We also enjoyed repeating the silly, magical spells in this magic-filled, cutesy fractured fairy tale.

Just how much does Disney's The Princess and the Frog follow Baker's book? Not much it seems. According to Baker's blog entry on the movie premiere, the general basis is the same. However, the characters are all different, the princess doesn't even start out as a real princess, and the story is set in New Orleans and includes dark magic. (Read page 8 of the final production notes for a detailed plot description.)

"She saw the Evening Star in the sky - and made a wish for her restaurant! But instead of her restaurant, a frog appeared ... and spoke to her!"
- The Princess and the Frog Little Golden Book by RH Disney. Golden Books - Random House Children's Books (October 2009); 24 pages; ISBN 9780736426282

The Princess and the Frog - Little Golden Book provides a simple, watered down print account of the newest Disney princess story. We bought a copy this weekend and read it together. I wasn't impressed by the writing in this retelling. The sentences are short and sweet and very basic, even by Little Golden Book standards. What happened to the art of classic fairytale storytelling? You won't find it in this adaption. Perhaps it is meant to appeal to beginning readers and parents that want to read a book that takes less than one minute? I imagine those wanting a quick introduction to the story will enjoy it. Luckily, the artwork by Disney illustrator Lorelay Bove captures the essence of the various scenes, and with a magical touch she applies her original style to the storybook. For those wanting a more detailed retelling appropriate for older children, read The Princess and the Frog Junior Novelization (unfortunately very few illustrations). From what I can tell at this point, Random House misses the boat in delivering an adequate, illustrated Princess and the Frog tie-in picture book for the early elementary audience.

No Princess and the Frog fan should go without their own kissable frog. We designed and crafted a 3D paper frog for our Story + Art project. It even has a jeweled crown and its own lilypad!

Links to other frog, princess and prince craft ideas, activities and printables:
Disney Princess and Frog Activities, Crafts and Printables
Ziggity Zoom Frog Prince Rock Buddy
Family Fun Paper Plate Frog Puppet
Family Fun Fly Catching Frog
Frog Puppet with retractable tongue
Martah Stewart Frog in a Box
Enchanted Learning Frog Crafts
DLTK's The Princess and the Frog Activities
Birthday in a Box Frog Princess Coloring Page
Busy Bee Talking Frog Card
Busy Bee TP Roll Frog
Craftzine Jumping Paper Frog

Post what you've been reading each week with your kids at The Well-Read Child or Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Hope Is the Word hosts a Read Aloud Thursday link-up as well. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links.


Michelle said...

What a cute princess frog, Emily loves, green, frogs and princesses so this book and project are a must for our house. I can't wait to try it out. Thank you for linking up :0)

Ticia said...

Yeah, in general I've found Little Golden book retellings of Disney stories to be kind of bleah.

Carrie said...

Wow, what an awesome idea and what a great job you've done preparing your daughter to see the new movie version. (I can't wait to see it myself!) But now I'm not sure I can go without making my own kissable frog! ha! That's really cute. (Followed your link through Read Aloud Thursday, btw, if there was a question!)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Oh, I LOVE the frog! That is so cute! My girls would love to make one. Kudos to you for the art tie-in, too! :-)

I'm always a little nervous when I read a fairy tale (esp. an original version) to my girls. . .

So glad you linked up this week!

Jenny said...

That is so cool that you researched the movie like that. Now your daughter will know the different versions.

Cute frog too!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Very cute frog craft. And, thank you for the reviews of all of the different versions of the story - I'm going to click over to check out the Grimm brothers' version - it's always fun to see how our idea of good children's stories has changed over time.

Honey Mommy said...

I LOVED the Princess and the Frog by E.D. Baker. I have read the entire series and they are all great!

chris brown said...

I love disney animation cartoons I cant wait cool really good idea.

Janet said...

What a great post! I loved reading about the different versions of this story.

Kim @ Life of a Modern Mom said...

What a perfect project. Thanks for all the versions of the story. My daughter saw a preview for the movie and has been talking about it like crazy. She would love to make a frog. :)

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I totally agree with you on some of Disney books - they are abominable! I never buy books based on movies. I hope your Princess will enjoy her first movie experience.

ibeeeg said...

What a great post! I love the frog art...very cute. I think I may do this one with my "princess".

The book, Frog Princess, my 10 year old may love. Think I may put that on the gift list.
I hope you are able to post about the different Frog/Princess books that you have read. I am interested.