Before I started reading this book I had just finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman (a book for grown ups). I was afraid to read anything because, seriously, when you finish a book that stunning, nothing in the world will compare.
On account of this, I decided to go for a book where I had few expectations. Frogspell is a novel for students just into reading chapter books. I figured it probably wouldn't be overly complicated or rich, but hoped I could recommend it to boys and girls who are just moving into reading this kind of book on their own. The best thing about having no, or negative expectations, is that you can be pleasantly surprised. And I was!
It's a simple tale set at the time of King Arthur. It begins with Max Pendragon working out a new spell for the Novice's Spell-Making Competition. Right off the bat we learn a few important things about family dynamics at the Pendragon household. First, although his wife, Lady Griselda, is a witch, Max's father, Sir Bertram, does not much like magic. Second, Sir Bertram has traditional gender expectations for his children. Third, Max has a bothersome little sister, Olivia. Fourth, accidents seem to happen when Max is around magic.
It is a fun read. Accidentally, the potion Max was trying to create ends up turning Olivia, Max's pet rat, Ferocious, and himself into frogs. After some hilarious and nearly disastrous moments, they figure out how to reverse the spell.
When the family heads off to Castle Camelot for a festival and 'The Competition,' the children soon discover that mischief is afoot. They uncover a plot to kidnap King Arthur's son and set Lady Morgana le Fay in control of the kingdom. Max and the rest of them have to come up with a plan to save the prince before disaster strikes.
What I liked:
I liked that there was lots of action in the plot. I liked the humor. I liked that both the children felt constricted by the expectations their father has for them. The many kinds of characters are developed enough to be interesting, and make the reader want to find out more about them. I like that the ending, while satisfying, sets the reader up to anticipate the next book in the series. This is good because then all I have to do is get them started on the first!
I worry a bit that kids won't get all the historical nuances referenced here, but I don't really think it will matter in the long run. If they liked these, then I can introduce them to move complicated Arthurian legends all in good time.
I plan to pick up the next two in the series, Cauldron Spells and Icespell at the Scholastic Book fair in the library this week.