Mike Klaassen

COMPLETE REVIEWS

  • Kirkus Reviews
  • Midwest Book Review
  • Pacific Book Review
  • Donna Rothgeb
  • Readers' Favorite


KIRKUS REVIEWS

This fairy-tale novella retells the Brothers Grimm's classic "The Frog Prince" as a parable on the importance of keeping promises.


While out hunting frogs, teenage prince Gerit falls into a bog; when Wibke, a witch, happens by, he begs her for help so that he won't drown by morning. She saves him but only after extracting elaborate promises from him. Unwilling to meet her demands, he runs away, and as punishment, she transforms him into a frog with a spell that can only be broken by three kisses from a princess. Gerit spends several months learning to survive as a frog by keeping moist, hunting insects, and avoiding predators. After hibernating through the winter, he travels to a neighboring kingdom, where the young princess Anneliese lives. When she loses a golden ball in the pond, Gerit offers to retrieve it in exchange for the requisite kisses. Like Gerit did, Anneliese makes the promise in bad faith and runs away, angering her father: "Your word . . . is your bond, regardless of to whom you offer it," he says. He commands her to keep the frog as a guest in her home until she makes good on her promise. Klaassen includes a translation of an early version of the fairy tale—one which notably omits the plot point regarding the kiss, which became traditional in later tellings; instead, the spell is broken when the angry princess strikes the frog against a wall. It's fun to see this story from the frog's perspective, as his situation is the most desperate and strange; at one point, for example, he gets his tongue comically stuck to his own face. But although the tale is framed as a parable about promises, it seems to offer a better lesson on the distastefulness of coercing unreasonable concessions from vulnerable children. Readers may find the king's chastisement of the princess for refusing to kiss someone she has no desire to kiss off-putting, to say the least, but Wibke's exploitation of the drowning boy's peril is no less troubling.

The chapters about Gerit's life as a frog in the wild are entertaining, but this retelling adds little depth or nuance to its source material. —Kirkus Reviews


MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
"When seventeen-year-old Prince Gerit slips away from his castle duties to enjoy a little relaxation and recreation in the forest, hunting and fishing, he doesn't know that his desire to escape responsibilities will lead to a vast change in his life. Thus opens Mike Klaassen's retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm story from quite a different perspective, embellishing the theme until the satisfyingly rich take-off moves far from its original rendition.


Those familiar with Klaassen's prior retelling of Hansel and Gretel will anticipate his similar attention to wide-ranging detail here, while newcomers will be delighted and surprised by the twists of tale The Frog Prince takes in its new incarnation. 

The arrogance of a young prince untested by the world quickly comes to light when he falls into a bog and commands a passing old woman to help him: "Of course. Of course. Of course, you are an important young man," said the woman. "But if I save your life, what will you do for me? "Gerit was shocked. As a prince, he expected people to do his bidding without argument. But this contemptuous crone intended to bargain for terms." 

Missing from the original story was the essence of a life transformed from that of an entitled prince to a lowly frog. Missing from the original is the psychology of this transformative process which challenges the revised prince with a strange new life. And also absent from the original are the nuances of betrayal, love, adapting to a life that requires different reactions to the world, and a questionable quest to return to what was. 

All these facets weave into a version of The Frog Prince which is hauntingly familiar yet compellingly different. As Prince Gerit lives, learns, adapts, and struggles, readers receive quite a different perspective of all the characters involved in his story. It moves beyond frogs, princes, and romance and deftly into the give-and-take and sacrifices of politics, kingdoms, and young adults who inherit the issues of their elders. Lessons on how to be a responsible ruler and the lingering effects of life as a frog make for a thought-provoking exploration of Gerit's evolving world. 

While fairy tale fans who look for retellings will be the obvious enthusiasts of Mike Klaassen's original novella, it's the student of fairy tale forms intent on contrasting this version with its Grimm original who will be especially delighted."—D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review


PACIFIC BOOK REVIEW
"When a young prince is turned into a frog after breaking a promise to a bitter old witch, the story of The Frog Prince by creative author Mike Klaassen becomes rivet-ting to say the least. Written as a novella rooted in the Brothers Grimm story, this third person narrative is told through the eyes of a frog and is by every definition extremely imaginative, captivating and entertaining from the very first page.

Avoiding predators was this frog's first lesson, as snakes, fish, and foxes combed the edges of the bog hoping to snare him as tasty prey. Only the insects themselves were lower on the food chain than this prince in a frog's body.

Following what becomes a credible sequence of events, the frog had to be kissed by a princess three times to break the spell and be returned to human form. This sounds easier than it is.

When the frog finally found a princess, his bulging eyes, slimy skin and fishy smell caused uncontrolled regurgitation once her lips touched his. One kiss was all she could muster, hence living out his days as a frog seemed inevitable. These sentiments were craft-fully articulated in a way which creates empathy for the frog, causing imagery indelibly memorable to the reader.

In all good "Once upon a time" fairytales, the ending is happy—and that's not being a spoiler. The way the story gets to the ending is the art of wordsmithing by Klaassen exercising creative license to embellish this tale into such a humorous, suspenseful and morally intact book. Frankly, a fine read for kids of all ages, as well as adults with childish, fun loving hearts!

This story would be a bedtime read extraordinaire told aloud to youngsters, or perhaps during an outing in the woods next to a fire's glowing embers (with the sound effects of rivets in the background). Absolutely thought provoking imagery of how the life of a frog is filled with such a varied cast of predators, it brings an irony to the prince himself; as in the onset of the tale he was seeking frog legs to be roasted by the king's chef.

So perhaps the moral of the story is to be kind to little creatures of the bog, as they may not exactly be who you think they are." —Beth Adams, Pacific Book Review


DONNA ROTHGEB

Mike Klaassen's The Frog Prince: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella is a delightful fleshed out Grimm's folk tale that offers wonderful details. The transition of the Princess Anneliese's repulsion of the frog prince when she first tries to kiss him to later when she accepts him as a companion is handled beautifully. Poetry is a perfect choice of arbitration for them both, allowing the start of a better relationship that grows into love. Klaassen has also made the successful transition from two immature, selfish teenagers to more mature offspring of monarchs. Special tidbits of action and dialog sprinkled throughout the novella make Klaassen's The Frog Prince far better than the original tale. How much more satisfying than a simple folk tale of a few short pages! Given the chance to compare the two for a lesson in genre is an even greater reason to select this novella! —Donna Rothgeb, retired teacher 


READERS' FAVORITE

The Frog Prince: A Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella is a children's fable of years gone by written by Mike Klaassen. As Prince Gerit of Krickenheim goes to a pond in order to satisfy his craving for frog's legs for dinner, his feet become stuck in the mud. An old crone, Wibke, frees him from a watery death in exchange for lavish rewards. Once freed, however, the prince reneges on their agreement. As punishment, Wibke turns Gerit into a frog. The only way to break the spell is for Gerit to be kissed three times by a princess. Gerit narrowly avoids death from predators, and makes his way to the nearest township, ruled by King Torsten, Queen Ingeborg, and their very spoiled daughter, Princess Anneliese. Knowing that the princess is his only hope of being transformed back into a prince, he does all he can to win her heart, but with Svenja, the royal cat, eyeing his every move, Gerit soon resigns himself to remaining a frog for the rest of his days . . . until he is faced with losing Anneliese forever.

While I have never read the original Brothers Grimm tale of The Frog Prince, I found Mike Klaassen's adaptation to be rather extraordinary. Initially, the tale shows Prince Gerit (in his human form) to be deceptive, dishonest, spoiled, and showing complete disregard for other creatures. His hard lesson, being transformed into a frog, teaches the prince how difficult life can be for others, as he is surrounded by predators both in and out of the water. The Frog Prince, as written by Mike Klaassen, is both captivating and enchanting, teaching readers that your word is the most important thing you can give, aside from your own heart when you are in love. It also teaches the importance of disciplining your children and teaching them proper values, rather than giving in to their every whim until they become spoiled, unruly, and unmanageable. Princess Anneliese found comfort in having frog-Gerit as a companion, regardless of whether to simply read to or play with, and it forged an unbreakable friendship between the two. I wholeheartedly enjoyed The Frog Prince: A Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella, and am excited to read my next Mike Klaassen tale in the future. —Rosie Malezer, Readers' Favorite


REVIEWS
The Frog Prince: 
The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella 
by Mike Klaassen