Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Review: Once Upon A Toad
The sweet, green glittering book jacket of Heather Vogel Frederick’s Once Upon a Toad proclaims the novel to be “charming.” And a more concise and precise thing has never been said. The world of young adult fiction these days is dark – sexy vampires, sexy heroin addicts, sexy post-apocalypse survivors, sexy demons. We YA readers apparently like our novels morose and - well - sexy! Once Upon A Toad is neither. It’s a light and fun; an easily digestible spoon full of sugar about two-twelve year old step-sisters becoming friends after a little unwanted magic enters their lives.
Cat Starr is the perfect young heroine: unconcerned about her looks, popularity or boys; passionate about learning and the bassoon; a drama-free pre-teen with a large vocabulary and a sense of humor; a kid who respects and enjoys spending time with adults. In other words, a completely unrealistic adolescent, except that Cat is very realistically rude and spiteful when it comes to her snobby step-sister, Olivia. Pretty and prim, Olivia resents that Cat is spending three months with her and her family and getting so much attention for being such a nice darn person. A war breaks out between the step-siblings. Olivia gets their classmates to create an elaborate tap dance routine while chanting “Catbox” to our protagonist. Cat gets even by manipulating Olivia’s precious room décor models. The girls seem more foes than family until the mysterious, orange-haired Great Aunt Aby shows up at their house in her rickety RV. Armed with a twinkle in her eye and a pep talk for her great-niece, Aby soothes discouraged Cat just a bit before departing, urging her to find “common ground” with Olivia. Cat holds no hope that she will ever bond with boy-crazy, selfish Olivia. Common ground comes in the form of supernatural oral ejections. Olivia is spitting flowers and diamonds with every word she utters, and Cat is coughing up toads. Could Great Aunt Aby be behind this? When Olivia’s gem-producing ability hits the news, criminals are gunning to get to her precious stones. Drama unfolds and the girls set out on the road to Las Vegas, being brought closer together by near death experiences and team work.
I absolutely adored this story. From Cat’s snarkiness to the humor that develops from toad-spitting situations to the non-stop action of the sisters’ road trip – this novel was book was a little diamond. Toadally awesome.