Prince Ribbit

illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Can a frog really turn into a prince?
When a cunning frog claims to be a bewitched prince, fairy-tale-loving princesses Arabella and Lucinda take him into their home and treat him like royalty.
But fact-loving Princess Martha isn’t so sure as her books tell a different story.

“A cleverly told twist of the traditional tale, this hilarious story is beautifully told and vibrantly illustrated.”

“A book that drills home a very simple message: “Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true.” Its timing could not be better.”

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Also illustrated by Poly Bernatene

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Stories For Younger Listeners

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UK Print-On-Demand Paperback: 
ISBN: 978-1739660604
(Originally published in the UK by Macmillan Children’s Books)


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Author's Note

Although Prince Ribbit is the fourth book that illustrator Poly Bernatene and I have created together, it’s effectively a follow-up to the second, The Princess and the Pig. While it’s not a sequel, both books are set in a fairytale world of princes and princesses and both books feature characters who are reading books of fairy tales.

In this new story a cunning frog inveigles his way into a royal household by pretending to be an enchanted prince. Romantice obsessed Princesses Lucinda and Arabella are only too happy to believe Prince Ribbit’s story, but their younger sister Princess Martha is more sceptical.

Although fiction versus non-fiction is a prominent theme of the finished story, there were no non-fiction books in the first few drafts. The only book that was referenced was Lucinda and Arabella’s favourite fairy tale The Frog Prince, which provides Prince Ribbit with the inspiration for his cunning plan. In these earlier drafts, Martha succeeded in foiling Ribbit using nothing but her own reasoning and the story ended at an earlier point.

While I was fairly happy with this early version, Emily Ford, my editor at Macmillan, felt that the ending could be stronger and that the whole story was not as satisfying as the other ones I’d written for Poly to illustrate – and she was right! However it took me a while to find a way to achieve this and come up with a new draft that addressed these issues.

In the story, reading fiction helps Martha to find a solution to her problem and reading non-fiction helped me to find a solution to mine. At that time I was reading a lot of “popular science” books. It may surprise you to learn that libel laws do not apply to science and authors can misrepresent a scientist’s work with impunity. There are good reasons for this exemption, but it means that the label of “non-fiction” should not always be taken literally when it comes to books about science, particularly popular science books which can sometimes misrepresent evidence in order to appeal to a wider market. After digging a little deeper into the evidence, I discovered that some of the books I was reading at that time were doing exactly that and I often had to remind myself that, “Just because it’s in a book, it doesn’t mean it’s true!”. This phrase inspired the fiction versus non-fiction theme in the later drafts of Prince Ribbit and became a refrain within the story.

While I loved the idea of playing off fiction against non-fiction, I didn’t want to show one type of book winning over the other – they’re both of equal value — so in the end Martha learns to appreciate both before foiling Prince Ribbit’s plan.

As always Poly has done a terrific job of illustrating the book, creating a cast of engaging characters in beautifully rendered settings. I particularly like the way that the illustrations inside the books the characters are reading are drawn in a different style to the rest of the illustrations. Poly’s precisely detailed diagram of the life cycle of a frog would not look out of place in a real reference book.

When I first saw Poly’s roughs for the book I wasn’t keen on the car spread (shown below) and suggested that it would be better if this spread showed the royal tailors and jewellers attending Ribbit inside the palace. However Poly was reluctant to change it and — having now seen the finished illustration — I’m glad that he got his way, as it’s now my favourite spread in the book. I love the blue-yellow colour palette that Poly has used for this illustration, with the golden glow of the tailor’s shop spilling out into the twilight of the crowded street.


“Enter Prince Ribbit, a book that drills home a very simple message: “Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true.” Its timing could not be better. … Teaching very young children to take their books’ facts on something other than mere faith is a tricky subject, but increasingly necessary. With a steady hand and a working brain, a parent, teacher, or librarian could easily spin this book into a lesson that would ultimately do child readers a world of good. Read carefully. Read critically. Read everything and then form your own opinion from the facts, as best as you can gather them. Or, if you just prefer, read this cute book because it has princesses and talking frogs in it. As far as I can tell, that’s a win-win situation.”

“‘Prince Ribbit,’ written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene, is a splendid story with an interesting and all-too-true moral – “just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true.” In an age where people are apt to believe much of what they hear, whether it is on the Internet, on TV, or elsewhere, this story truly teaches a lesson and backs up the idea that you really have to read closely – and often between the lines – to determine the truth of the matter. … A creative and thoughtful retelling of an age-old fairytale, ‘Prince Ribbit’ will not only be enjoyable and entertaining for readers, but will allow them to think outside the box and make their own determinations and predictions about how the story might turn out in the end.”
Beth Rodgers – Staff Reviewer, YA AND KIDS BOOKS CENTRAL

“Hop, skip and jump into this brilliant new picture book from top team Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene.
Well-loved fairy tale, The Frog Prince, gets a dashing, daring makeover as ever popular author Emmett and talented illustrator Bernatene put a devilishly clever twist in the not-so-handsome frog’s tail. … Emmett works his own brand of fairy tale magic as he transforms a classic tale into a feast of smiles and smoochy surprises while Bernatene’s stunning and superbly detailed illustrations provide a feast of colour and fun.
A picture book that all the family can enjoy…”

“A cleverly told twist of the traditional tale, this hilarious story is beautifully told and vibrantly illustrated.”

“‘Prince Ribbit’ by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene takes the traditional fairy tale of “The Frog Prince” and bounces it firmly on its head a little, spinning it into a hugely funny and original twist on the story you probably all know and love. … Once again Jonathan and Poly prove themselves a dream team. If you loved “The Princess and the Pig” you’re definitely going to love this ticklish tale about a Princess and a frog.”