________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 20. . . .January 24, 2014


Frogspell. (Frogspell #1).

C. J. Busby. Illustrated by David Wyatt.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2011.
160 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-2477-5.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.

***1/2 /4



“Adolphus! Stop it this minute! Bad dragon! You are not to eat that frog!” Adolphus stopped. He felt a bit confused. The voice was coming from the purple frog – but it sounded like the voice of his mistress, Olivia Pendragon. He looked down at it.

“Um, please? Are you Olivia?”

“Yes, yes, I am!” said the purple frog. Olivia was incredibly relieved. She’d thought Ferocious was dragon-dinner for sure – but it seemed Adolphus could understand frogs and had even recognized her. This was nothing short of miraculous because Adolphus was not the brainiest of young dragons and generally ate first and asked questions later.

“Adolphus,” she said. “We’ve been turned into frogs by one of Max’s stupid spells. And now he’s gone to get peppercorns from the kitchen and he’s been gone ages and we’re afraid Mrs. Mudfoot’s put him in the soup.”

“She’s almost definitely put him in the soup,” add Ferocious. “Probably us next if we carry on standing here.”

“Oh no! Oh dear! What can I do to help?” said Adolphus anxiously, flapping his wings and hopping from foot to foot.

“Try not to squash us, for a start,” pointed out Ferocious, jumping smartly out of the way of Adophus’s claws.

“We’re on our way to the kitchen,” said Olivia. “Max is in there somewhere, and he probably needs rescuing. Come on!”


Frogspell, the first book in the “Frogspell” series by C.J. Busby, is concerned with the adventures of 11-year-old Max Pendragon, his younger sister Olivia, and their pets, the rat Ferocious, and the young dragon Aldophus. They live in Camelot where King Arthur rules the kingdom with the wizard Merlin loyally by his side. In this book, Max is determined to win the Novice’s Spell-Making Competition to prove to his father that he should train as a wizard rather than a knight, as well as to have the satisfaction of beating his sworn enemy, Snotty Hogsbottom. Max’s chances at winning the competition greatly improve upon his accidentally creating a potion that turns humans and animals into frogs. However, this invention sparks trouble for Max, Olivia, and their sidekicks, beginning immediately with Max’s risky search for ingredients for the reversal spell in the dangerous kitchen of the housekeeper, Mrs. Mudfoot. Later Max narrowly avoids disaster as Snotty Hogsbottom throws him out of a castle window while in frog form and he lands in the pike-ridden moat below. Olivia and Aldophus find themselves in trouble as well when they are captured while trying to thwart a kidnapping scheme that will likely lead the kingdom into war. Finally, they are dependent upon the frog potion’s success to capture the leaders of the kidnapping plot, including the King’s sister, evil sorceress, Lady Morgana, to help the wizard Merlin have the necessary proof regarding Lady Morgana’s true nature.

     Frogspell is a very enjoyable read. Max and Olivia are a realistic pair of siblings who squabble, yet lend each other support when they find themselves in a bind (or if a bribe is involved). The brave, yet crabby, rat Ferocious and the dim-witted dragon Aldophus provide humour to the dialogue as well as loyally offering their assistance to the children during their adventures. The book is written in third person, and the majority of the characters are well-developed. There are small black and white illustrations throughout the book by David Wyatt, primarily at the start of each chapter. While they depict an incident within the chapter in detail, readers may not spend much time observing them as the events of the story move along quite fluidly. The pace of the book is appropriate, with each event being thoroughly explained, but without any scenario where description or dialogue seemed heavy or excessive. While the storyline of this fantasy is light and appropriate for young audiences, the vocabulary is quite rich and might be too challenging for younger readers to complete independently. While Frogspell is the first of the series, enough of the conflicts are resolved that the audience has a sense of satisfaction when the story draws to a close. However, readers are left eager to see how the children will survive their next adventure, Cauldron Spells.

Highly Recommended.

Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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