Welcome to the Spotlight: Vivian Vande Velde and Frogged!


I am a big-time fan of author Vivian Vande Velde and big time excited to shine the spotlight on her and her newest MG novel, Frogged! Stay tuned below to find out how you can enter for a chance to win a copy of this awesome book!

9780547942155_p0_v1_s260x420Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde (Harcourt/2013)

Princess Imogene’s mother, the Queen, has given her a book to read called The Art of Being a Princess. Not only does Imogene not want to read this dull book, but she must read it before her 13th birthday in two weeks. Quickly bored by the Forward, Imogene wanders to a nearby pond where she meets a frog who says in order to be changed back into a prince, she must kiss him. Imogene obliges, but discovers too late that not only is the boy not a prince, but the spell turns the human kisser into a frog! Imogene doesn’t want to pass the spell along but doesn’t want to remain a frog either. In her attempt to get back home, she becomes an unwilling traveling companion to Luann who is running away with a boy to join an acting troupe. Will Imogene ever find her way back home and become human again? A fun story that had me laughing out loud and cheering on Imogene!

Spotlight on Vivian Vande Velde:

I have long been a fan of yours. Some of my favorites have been Never Trust a Dead Man and Heir Apparent. I thoroughly enjoyed Frogged! Can you tell me how the story and the characters came about?

As I sometimes say to the hand-waving kids at school assemblies:  Rest your arms–this answer is going to be a long one.

In 1981, when I was sending out my first novel manuscript  (A Hidden Magic–which went on to be in print for 18 years, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, published by Crown, reissued by Harcourt), I received a rejection from a publisher who said (really!):  “We aren’t currently accepting children’s manuscripts; but if we were, we wouldn’t accept this one.”

They then proceeded to lecture me that kids like their fantasies fantastic, and that it was “wrong” (their word) to write about a princess “as though she were you or me or the little girl down the street.”

Now, it’s one thing to say you don’t like my story or my characters.  But wrong?  A word can be spelled wrong.  A sentence can be grammatically wrong.  Scientific, geographic, or historic facts can be wrong.  But I don’t believe that making the princess shy and self-conscious qualifies as wrong.  I think it’s fine to have some characters be brave and self-assured, and others who are more timid and find themselves thrust into an adventure where circumstances force them to have to deal with the situation themselves–because there is no one else.

Which brings us, finally, to Princess Imogene.  I wanted to write about a princess who is neither drop-dead gorgeous (as in the Disney tradition) nor of Xena the Warrior Princess temperament–but someone who makes mistakes yet tries to do the right thing (at least with bigger issues, even if not regarding grass stains on her clothing).  Sort of like (I imagine) you or me or the little girl down the street.  🙂

Princess Imogene unwittingly ends up as a frog and wants very much to return to her human form. What were some of the challenges to developing this story? Did the idea of the “frog curse” being difficult to undo come to you quickly?

Quite a few of my stories show the influence of fairy tales, some more directly than others.  Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, and Cloaked in Red belong in the “fractured fairy tale” category–a specific, existing, well-known fairy tale is set on its head in one or more ways; whereas A Hidden Magic, Three Good Deeds, and Wizard at Work have many of the tropes and conventions of fairy tales in general but each is an original story, not depending on the reader’s knowledge of any one particular fairy tale.  Frogged is more of this second sort.  You don’t have to know anything about “The Frog Prince” in order to read it.  When I first started thinking about the story, I didn’t want the curse to be lifted by a kiss but to be transferred by a kiss,  I did an internet search on princes and princesses and frogs, and came up with “The Princess and the Frog,” one of the few Disney movies I hadn’t seen, and “The Frog Princess”–both the one by E.D. Baker and a Russian folktale (which bear no similarity to each other).  I read descriptions of all–enough to tell my intended story was different enough from the other three to be a separate thing entirely.  (Still, I didn’t watch or read the full versions so as not to be influenced by them.)  And then I dove in.  Without knowing exactly how Princess Imogene would break the curse.  Just knowing some of the things I knew I did not want to happen.  I was very relieved when Princess Imogene finally worked it out.

Those of my friends who plot their stories out in advance shake their heads at me.

Imogene adapts pretty well to being a frog – eating flies and keeping wet. If you were somehow turned into an animal, what animal would you want to be turned into and why?

Dragon.  Because nobody messes with dragons lightly.

tn_Viv with frogVivian Vande Velde risks being turned into a frog! 😉

For more about Vivian and her many fabulous books, check out her web site!

Win a copy of Frogged! Just follow these rules for the drawing:

1. Comment on this post, and for fun, tell me what animal you would want to be turned into (if you had to be turned into one) and why. I think I’d like to be a pampered pooch – preferably a rat terrier like my own Trixie. But I’d want to be a dog that could read! Just think – while the masters were away and thought I was snoozing or guarding the house, I’d be reading all their fabulous books!

2. Leave your comment and email address by midnight EST Friday, July 19th. The lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, July 23rd.

3. And just for this drawing, in honor of recent followers who are from out of the country (welcome!), I’m allowing international entrants as well! (But if you are an international winner, you must be patient as I’ll send it media mail.)

Thanks for stopping by! Good luck and happy reading!

31 responses »

  1. What a great story of perseverance after that dang publisher! I always thought it would be fun to be a butterfly, flitting through gardens, bloom to bloom, and though I admire the monarch, the migration would do me in! Thanks for making me think about it!

  2. Looking forward now to reading “Frogged.” Not sure I would be a brave frog kisser though! I am quite satisfied to be the animal homo sapiens, but if I were to be another–an otter perhaps?

  3. Great story. It’s always inspiring to hear other people’s story. I think I would like to be a dog, one that is well taken care of. I don’t want to be neglected, just loved for who and what I am.

  4. Neat looking book, thank you. I’d like to be transformed into a sea bird, maybe an Osprey, soaring high and fishing in the warm waters of the world.

  5. I’d like to be a hummingbird, though a long-lived one, spending my time among the flowers. This book sounds great!

  6. I just checked out our library’s copy of this amazing title to share with my grandchildren (ages 10 thru 12) who are coming to visit and still require a bedtime story….which I happily provide. To be honest, I was in love with the book when I first saw the cover and read that it was about a Princess being turned into a frog….my kinda book. I assumed that I’d be happy with checking it out from the library, but oh, no. I’m about I’m about 40 pages into the book and I want my very own copy. I think I’d like to be a sea otter. Whenever you see them at the zoo they always seem to be having so much fun.

  7. Love the idea of this book, Vivian! Can’t wait to get my hands on this story. If I were to be changed into an animal, I’d probably prefer getting transformed into a fish! Haven’t decided what kind yet.

  8. Can’t wait to read this story, it sounds wonderful. Thank you for so candidly sharing your rejection experience. I’ve begun subbing a lot more lately and had just received a rejection this morning myself. My husband and I laughed when we read your not so kind rejection, because it was so unbelievably ridiculous and obnoxious and, well, ‘wrong’ on his/her part!! I’m quite sure it was not funny then. Shame on them, and too bad for them for passing on your wonderful talent!

  9. Frogged sounds terrific! I am of course dying to know how she undoes the curse, so now I’ll have to read it one way or another 🙂 Hmm… I think I may have been a cat in a former existence – I have a real love of sitting in warm places 🙂 But as for what I’d like to be? I like the idea of flying, so a bird might be cool… but not one that eats cute animals. I think I might like to be a zebra – beautifully patterned, living among friends, fleet like a horse, but not likely to be domesticated and made to work for humans 🙂

  10. Just got done reading and reviewing “Frogged” myself, and was so excited to find your post with the interview! Loved the book – classic Vande Velde 🙂 Thanks for the post!

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