A fresh take on The Frog Prince
I am NOT a Prince! by Rachael Davis and Beatrix Hatcher, Orchard Books (Hachette), January 2022
What's it about? In the misty lagoon of a magical realm, eager frogs wait to be kissed so that they can become a prince. Except for Hopp who decides, "It's not for me. That's not what I am meant to be." Cast out by his fellow frogs for not conforming, Hopp leaves home in pursuit of a different dream. Along the way, Hopp meets various creatures in different states of distress and valiantly comes to their rescue. As each animal thanks the 'prince' who has helped them, Hopp corrects them, repeating the phrase, 'Oh, I am not a prince,' every time. But if Hopp is not a prince, then what exactly is this little frog? Thanks to Hopp's bravery and determination, Hopp is the one who ultimately gets to make that decision.
What can we learn? Never be limited by the expectations of others. You decide who you are, not those around you. It's important to be proud of your true self and not try to hide it. If something doesn't feel right for you, don't do it. You alone are in control of your identity and you can choose your own destiny.
What makes this stand out?
This is such a powerful story! It subverts traditional fairy tale tropes and squashes gender stereotypes. There is so much to learn but the plot is never compromised by the message. It manages to be every bit as entertaining as it is educational, and can be enjoyed on more than one level.
The lyrical text and eye-catching artwork evoke a convincing and captivating fairy tale world. The rhyming is masterful and flows beautifully. The repetition of the phrase, "Oh, I am not a prince," and all the rhyming, will engage children and they're good for developing brains too! It's hard to believe this is the debut picture book of both the author and the illustrator. It's clear that Rachael Davis is a natural storyteller and that Beatrix Hatcher is an illustrator to watch! One thing I noticed on subsequent readings was that the text doesn't use any pronouns at all; there are none for any of the characters. This is unusual in literature of any kind and it's the first time I've encountered this in a children's story, but it feels so natural that it wasn't immediately apparent. This is a book that's as individual and unique as its main character.
About the illustrations...
This book is cleverly designed with the endpapers and cover as striking and intricate as the illustrations. The vibrant palette will appeal to the very young. All the creatures are incredibly cute, especially the frogs. I love their happy faces and tiny hands and feet!
The attention to detail is impressive with lots to discover on every page. We've enjoyed spotting frogspawn and tadpoles and seeing what the supporting cast (of caterpillars, snails, slugs, worms and ladybirds) is getting up to in different scenes. All the bubbles and sparkles are gorgeous and enhance the fairy tale qualities. The signposts are an excellent touch and we love the atmospheric dark cave out of which several pairs of eyes peer ominously.
It's brilliant how Hopp kicks a crown on the front cover and the endpapers are amazing too. The same characters feature at the back endpapers as in the front but have been magically transformed. Even minibeasts, fish and flowers are altered in the endpapers. There is an adorable image of Hopp and two pals sitting on a log on the copyright page at the back. I'm not going to spoil the story, but the very last spread is our favourite and my kids spend ages poring over and discussing it.
Why we love it... We love any story that involves a magical quest and includes signposts but this one is extra special. Hopp's journey is exciting and inventive. My kids find the bear's predicament very funny and the concept and consequences of a sneezing dragon are another wonderful and original humorous touch.
It's fantastic how Hopp's kindness and bravery are rewarded in the best possible way. It shows children that they can have a big impact, even if they are small. No one is powerless, not even a tiny amphibian. Hopp's actions change not only his own circumstances but make life better for all of the princes-in-waiting.
As well as dismantling gender stereotypes, this is diverse and inclusive - there's only one human character and it's refreshing to see they aren't white. In addition to this, the human has a larger body than is typically represented in books and the media, which is also something I was glad to see.
One of the most admirable aspects of this story is how it challenges assumptions based on how someone looks or acts and encourages children to examine their own prejudices. Hopp also inspires them to be themselves and pursue their dreams, even if they're unconventional. Everyone tells Hopp what they think the frog is but no one asks what Hopp actually thinks until the very end. The transformative power of self-acceptance is celebrated and we see how the most potent magic of all comes from taking pride in oneself.
Why you need it...
An uncomfortable truth is that children are going to be stereotyped due to their ethnicity, their accent, their gender, their appearance or any number of things. This can happen with teachers, classmates and even their friends and the parents of pals. It can continue into adulthood and be perpetuated by doctors, professors, employers, colleagues, neighbours or random strangers, and it can have an enormous impact on self-esteem. It's never too early to learn to defy the negative attitudes of others. Hopp teaches little readers that they don't have to accept the narratives they are given. This revolutionary frog demonstrates how we can be the hero - or whoever we want to be - in our own stories.
Did you know that in the earliest versions of The Frog Prince, the frog becomes a prince after being thrown against a wall rather than being kissed?
While the oldest written record of The Frog Prince dates back to the 13th century, the now crucial kiss wasn't introduced until an English translation of Grimm's Fairy Tales from 1823. This story's origins can also be traced to ancient Rome! Read more about the history of The Frog Prince on FairyTaleCentral.com
About the author:
Rachael Davis studied mathematics at Oxford University and went on to work in finance. When her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Rachael decided life was too short not to do what you love. She left her job, did a masters in English Literature at Surrey University, became a full-time writer and has never looked back. Rachael is passionate about showcasing diversity and mental wellness in her writing. Rachael blogs about children's books and champions diversity and inclusiveness with her brilliant book reviews as well. She lives in Hampshire with her husband and two young daughters. You can learn more about Rachael on her website, rachaeldavis.co.uk, and read her reviews here: picturebookperfect123.com
About the illustrator: Beatrix Hatcher is a freelance illustrator living in South London. She uses digital media to create contemporary and lively illustrations with playful shapes, characters and colours. She loves narrative illustration and will find a story in just about anything! I Am NOT a Prince! is her first picture book and you can see more of her portfolio on her website: beatrixhatcher.com
Thanks so much to author Rachael Davis and Hachette for sharing this spectacular book with us - we will treasure it! All opinions are our own.