by Vivian Vande Velde (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

When almost-thirteen-year-old Princess Imogene is turned into a frog, she puts into practice lessons from the book, The Art of Being a Princess, as she tries to become her less-than-perfect self again.

One should be able to say of a princess "She was as good as she was beautiful," according to The Art of Being a Princess (third revised edition), which the almost-thirteen-year-old Princess Imogene is supposed to be reading.

Not feeling particularly good, or all that beautiful, she heads for a nearby pond, where, unfortunately, a talking frog tricks her into kissing him. No prince appears, as one might expect. Instead, the princess turns into a frog herself!

Thus launches a funny, wonderfully spun fractured fairy tale in which Imogene wonders if she will be forever frogified.


Princess Imogene wonders whether she is as good as she should be when she reads that a princess ought to be as good as she is beautiful in The Art of Being a Princess, a gift--a hint?--from her mother. She is, and more. For moments later, when a rude frog claiming to be a prince asks her to kiss him, Imogene ignores her revulsion, puckers her lips and...turns into a frog!--a consequence he neglected to mention. Imogene will not consider putting someone else at risk, except maybe the unscrupulous actor who refuses to take Imogene home, instead making her the talking-frog star of his traveling show. Imogene is afraid she will never be unfrogged. Uneducated, boy-crazy Luella, a member of the troupe, may be Imogene's only hope. Readers will be quickly immersed in the story. Chuckle-worthy chapter headings torn from the aforementioned etiquette book paired with snarky commentary keep children apprised of Imogene's status. Concise, sassy prose feels comfortably modern yet stays true to an earlier time. Characters emerge through conversations and actions, especially Luella, who, in contrast to Imogene, allows for observations about class, education and the role of women. Interestingly, it is Luella and Imogene's mother who effect the rescue. A fine addition to the canon of fractured fairy tales. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Copyright 2013 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission.


Grades 4-7. A sympathetic kiss turns kind-hearted Princess Imogene into a frog, who gets carried off by a band of traveling players, in this light, cheerful adventure. Relaxing by the mill pond and feeling neither as good nor as beautiful as she thinks a princess about to turn 13 should, Imogene encounters a talking frog who claims that her kiss will turn him back into a prince. But Harry, the wainwright’s boy, turns out to be only one of the pretenders she will encounter in an effort to regain her true form, a journey that takes her far from home with her rescuer, the boy-crazy Luella. Still, all ends well with the wanderers returned and the promise of more appropriate partners in the happy-ever-after. Readers will sympathize with the likable Imogene’s predicament as she tries to convince strangers that she really is the person she didn’t like being. The action is convincing, carried forward by dialogue and ironic good humor. A satisfying journey for fans of fractured fairy tales.

Copyright 2013 Booklist, LLC Used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

Vande Velde previously reworked classic fairy tales in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem and Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird, and she now turns to the "The Frog Prince." Princess Imogene, who is 12 and "gawky," is tired of falling short in her family's eyes. The real trouble begins when a (rather pushy) frog, who tells Imogene he's a prince beset by a witch's spell, tricks her into kissing him. He returns to his human form, but she is transformed into a frog as a result; worse, he was just the lowly son of a wagon maker. Too kind to use that sort of deceit on someone else, Imogene searches for another solution, tracking down the none-too-sympathetic witch who cast the original spell, getting captured by a boy-crazy runaway named Luella and her know-it-all actor boyfriend (who use Imogene as a gimmick to attract an audience for their theater troupe's lousy plays), and trying to find a way home. Vande Velde's story recalls E.D. Baker's The Frog Princess, and while the cast is fairly one-dimensional, Imogene's misadventures as an amphibian are entertaining. There's enough light humor throughout to keep readers hooked. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)

Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 5-8—Imogene Eustacia Wellington, 12, is sure that she is failing miserably at being a princess. The book her mother has given her, The Art of Being a Princess, tells her to be everything she thinks she is not. (The novel's chapter titles are princess rules, qualified by Imogene, a clever touch.) Taking a break from reading, she wanders down to the mill pond where she is conned into kissing a talking frog to break a witch's curse. Disgusted and shocked to find herself in the body of a frog and the so-called prince turned back into a common wainwright's boy, she is determined to break her spell without passing it on to another unsuspecting victim. Along the way, she is kidnapped by a traveling theater troupe and forced to perform with them. Humorous antics and lots of adventures eventually lead Imogene back to the castle and home. This fractured tale ends happily. Imogene learns that she does have what it takes to be a real princess and saves herself without needing a handsome prince to come to her rescue. Princess-loving girls will be charmed by this story.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Vivian Vande Velde
Vivian Vande Velde is the Edgar Award-winning author of Never Trust a Dead Man, Heir Apparent, Dragon's Bait, and dozens of other fantasy and mystery novels for young readers. She lives in Rochester, New York.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
April 20, 2014
Age Range
10 - 12 years
Black-Eyed Susan Award
Nominee None
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Nominee None
Young Hoosier Book Award
Nominee None

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