The Prince of the Pond
Donna Jo Napoli
Judith Bryon Schachner, Illustrator
Grades 3-6 151 pages
A prince finds himself stuck in a frog's body after an ill-fated encounter with an evil hag and must learn to cope with his new identity. A seasoned frog tells the story of meeting a strange new frog by the pond and teaches him to behave more frog-like. Together they learn new skills, battle enemies, and birth a whole brood of tadpoles. The strange new frog calls himself Pin and eventually he learns how to survive in his new life and even begins to enjoy it. He dubs his new companion Jade and together they form a bond unlike normal frog behavior. Pin insists on protecting his developing frog eggs from enemies and he and Jade both protect and care for their new offspring, especially a tadpole named Jimmy, who becomes their constant companion. Pin begins to enjoy frog life and exhibit real feelings for his frog family when the hag re-enters their life. Pin takes a dangerous chance in order to save Jimmy, putting his own self at risk. Jade thinks they have lost him, only to have him re-emerge also searching for them. A fresh encounter with a princess brings expected "fairy-tale esque" results to a character, but which one? And how will this transformation effect the family? Read the sequel to find out!
I first read this story early in my career when it was released in 1992 during the fractured fairy tale craze brought on by The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. Fairy tales are back in vogue, so I thought I would try this title again for my summer battle-of-the-books. Respected folklorist, Napoli, takes on the Frog Prince, exploring what happens to the prince while living as a frog. In this case, the prince not only adjusts to his new life, but falls in love and creates a family. His friend and mate (and our narrator), Jade, teaches him frog-like ways, while he teaches his new amphibious family the ways of the human heart. Animal lovers will enjoy the pond-life adventures and readers will learn facts about frogs and their neighbors right along with Pin. For my money, I have always preferred the sequel Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace because I enjoy stories about people over animals, but I know plenty of readers who prefer this original tale better. The writing is clever, imaginative, and solid, while staying within an age-appropriate vocabulary. The length, print-size, and design is perfect for emerging fiction readers. Excellent black and white illustrations generously grace the pages contributed by Judy Schachner before she hit the big-time with Skippyjon Jones. A still fresh take on a classic tale just right for animal lovers and developing readers.