Author: Charlotte Huck
Artist: Anita Lobel
Genre: Family / Fairy Tale / Manners / Magic
Year Published: 1996
Year Read: 2015
Content Rating: Ages 5+ (Child Mistreatment)
Now to be honest, I had heard of this story through an episode of “Adventures from the Book of Virtues” and I really enjoyed it! So, when I finally got the chance of reading this story in book format, I was just as impressed with this book that was written by Charlotte Huck along with illustrations by Anita Lobel, as I was with the TV episode!
There once lived a widow who had two daughters: one was her daughter Francine, who was spoiled and cruel like her mother and the other was Renee, who is kindhearted and is actually her stepdaughter. Renee is often mistreated by her stepmother and Francine as they force her to do all the housework, including getting water from the spring every day. One day, when Renee had to go to the spring to gather water, she meets up with an old woman and the old woman asks Renee if she could have some water. Renee gladly gives the old woman some water from her cup and the old woman decided to give Renee a reward for her kindness. The reward ends up being that whenever Renee speaks, flowers, diamonds and pearls will fall from her mouth. When Renee showed this gift to her stepmother and Francine, her stepmother decided that Francine must receive the same gift as Renee and she forces Francine to go out and meet the old woman by the spring.
Will Francine get the same gift as Renee?
Read this book to find out!
I actually really enjoyed this version of the classic French tale about the power of true kindness! I have read many fairy tales and folktales that has a “Cinderella” vibe to them and this tale definitely has the classic “nice girl who lives with a cruel step family” element woven into the story! Charlotte Huck’s storytelling is fantastic as Renee is portrayed as being a resourceful female protagonist who tries to think her way out of troublesome situations (just as the author stated in her author’s note that she wanted to create a more resourceful protagonist rather than the stereotypical helpless female protagonist that is often shown in some fairy tales and folktales). I was also impressed with the idea about how Renee is rewarded for her kindness by having pearls and flowers coming out of her mouth every time she talks since I wondered to myself about how a regular person would feel about having jewelry coming out of their mouths (personally, if someone rewarded me with the gift of getting diamonds and flowers, I wouldn’t want them to come out of my mouth)! Anita Lobel’s artwork is truly gorgeous to look at as the environment surrounding the characters is lushly drawn and they bring so much beauty to the story. I also loved the clothing that the characters wear as they represent the Renaissance Age and they bring an exotic tone to the story.
The only problem I have with this book is that in some of the artwork, the characters’ facial expressions look a little off, such as their mouths are almost opened in every panel and I have to wonder to myself about whether or not they really fit in well whenever the characters are getting angry or happy during a situation in the book.
Overall, “Toads and Diamonds” is a fantastic book about the power of kindness and how it can bring its own rewards. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the length of this book might be tiresome to smaller children.