Once Upon a Toad
Simon & Schuster, April 2012
hc: 978-1416984788
Barnes & Noble
Once Upon a Toad

"After complaining to eccentric Great-Aunt Abyssinia about nasty, name-calling stepsister Olivia, twelve-year-old Cat wakes up one morning and starts spitting out toads. Whether she’s speaking, singing, or playing the bassoon in her school’s talent show, a toad pops out every time she opens her mouth. To make things worse, Olivia is similarly affected, except that instead of toads, she produces flowers and diamonds. Olivia’s status as “the diamond girl” makes her an instant celebrity—and an easy target. So when kidnappers steal their little brother, demanding Olivia in return, it’s up to the jewel- and amphibian-spewing stepsisters to get him back. In this enjoyable twist on a Charles Perrault fairy tale—in the original, it’s the evil stepsister who’s cursed with toads—Frederick keeps readers entertained with an action-packed, zany plot and an even wackier cast: a bald Elvis impersonator, a tough-but-kind diner waitress (whose updo looks like “she’d set her hair dryer control to ‘stun’”), and enormous, colorful, RV–driving, mind-reading Great-Aunt Aby. In the midst of the craziness, Cat is a dryly witty, grounded protagonist; except for a few (toadally) understandable freak-outs, she stays focused and determined. As the fearless “Cat Starr, Toad Huntress,” she creates the requisite happy ending: ingeniously saving her brother; accepting Aby, her newly found fairy godmother; and forging a relationship with her stepsister, warts and all."

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