The Frog Prince, a bulgy-eyed guy with skinny legs, lolls around the castle all day, idly flicking his tongue at the dragonflies on the wallpaper. The Princess, a bit of a ditz, doesn’t seem to do much besides nag the Prince (”I would prefer that you not hop around on the furniture”) and blow-dry her hair.
This, kids, is what comes after the ”happily ever after” in The Frog Prince, Continued — according to Jon Scieszka, the sly satirist who in 1989 told us The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs from the wolf’s point of view. In his contemporary version of the Frog Prince fairy tale, ennui and irritation follow hard on the heels of the honeymoon. The Frog Prince decides that he’d be happier as a frog after all and runs off to the woods to find a witch who can do the trick.
After some ill-fated encounters with witches from different fairy tales, the Prince realizes how foolish he has been and rushes repentantly back to his worried bride. They make up and kiss — and both turn into frogs. The loving couple, we’re told, ”hopped off happily ever after.” Despite the couple’s touching reaffirmation of love, there’s something unsettling about that hoppy ending. Why should the Princess be any happier in the pond than the Prince was in the castle?
Scieszka’s narrative is enjoyably deadpan, and kids will love being able to spot the references to other fairy tales. But though The Frog Prince, Continued has its pleasures, it can’t compete with the uproarious humor of his 3 Little Pigs.
Painter Steve Johnson, an accomplished book illustrator, doesn’t have as much to work with in The Frog Prince. He does try to insert visual jokes into his pictures, and maybe he tries too hard. How many children will note that the witch from ”Snow White” is sitting in a beauty parlor reading a copy of Hague magazine and be able to make the connection to Vogue? B+