Today I’m going to give a lot of love and a big faery pumpkin hug boost to the Amelia Fang series by author/illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson. This series is a faevorite of the entire family and it is a bittersweet note that The Trouble with Toads is the last currently planned in the series.
With Laura Ellen Anderson’s unique and utterly recognisable style of illustration and brand of quirky humour that unfolds into a beautiful but unpreachy life lesson The Trouble with Toads is a perfectly fitting and triumphant finale including a tribute to the
frog ahem toad chorus
It’s Grimaldi’s birthnight and Amelia is looking forward to a weekend of baby-brother-free fun, which all goes wrong when her mother, father and even Wooo the butler all fall ill with the Franken-flu.
Vincent is more than a pickle, he’s a smelly vivacious pooping bag of mischief and unintentionally seems to ruin everything for Amelia… but when he accidentally crawls through a portal to the Toad Afterlife, Amelia puts her big sister toad onesie on and she and her friends set out to get her brother back, whatever it takes.
The Trouble With Toads has this wonderfully creative plot with a dash of Labyrinth as Amelia fed up of caring for annoying little brother is actually horrified when he disappears into a watery Underworld of Toads that is strangely too perfect and tidy.
Laura Ellen Anderson has spent a lot of time and care in her world building from the joyfully dark and sparkly respective Magical Kingdoms to the ‘rules’ of these worlds and the aftermath of discovery as the worlds collided and opened up as the books developed and The Pond Beyond has been lavished with love and imagination. The Trouble with Toads is as always extremely enjoyable for adults to read along too from nods to Paul McCartney’s Frog Chorus to Freddo chocolates and old Shreddies adverts to quietly chortle at the references.
Each character in the series is delightfully rounded, the key players do have familiar behaviours repeated through the books but overall all are deeply thought out, often they surprise you. Whilst there is a wonderful sense of building to this point from the development of previous books such as Amelia’s friendships with Tangine and Florence I was delighted to see this last book not simply focus on Amelia and Vincent but also give Grimaldi more gravitas.
As Birthday boy and Official Toad Reaper he is featured and depended upon much more for his knowledge in this book than in previous books where he was a tag along or the ‘scared’ quiet one. It was nice to see all the gang get their ‘moment’ across the series, and in this finale some echoing back of all the times Amelia risked herself for her friends.
Laura Ellen Anderson has created something amazing in her vampire girl Amelia Fang who is one of my daughter’s most favourite characters and a book series that I suspect will shape her in the same way that the likes of the Magic Faraway Tree did for me. We got on board the Amelia Fang NightTrain when Littlefae was almost 5 years old, she was reading but not independently but she was craving more complexity to her stories.
I have to say I was pleased to embrace Amelia Fang and I have a soft spot for the stories as they embrace something in my darkling heart with their gothy gorgeousness. I would have adored these books as a young girl and I’m so pleased that there are others out there including at Egmont that agree enough to have helped Laura Ellen Anderson make Amelia Fang a reality for my own children.
Amelia Fang is a brilliant protagonist that children can admire and associate with, wanting her to succeed. She’s not a perfect princess, she gets angry and frustrated, makes mistakes, gets messy BUT she also is brave, she wants to do what’s right but not to compromise her values, she loves her friends and family and wants to be kind and so is a great role model for children.
I love how creator Laura Ellen Anderson revealed on social media how in her planning, Amelia initially was a spoilt sprout but Laura was soon struck with the realisation that Amelia was a force for good and someone for children to look up to evolving her into the lovable character we know today.
Anderson has ingeniously weaved the issues of childhood experience and problem solving them into the books without them ever feeling preachy or moralistic. From peer aggression to friendship fallouts, mama drama to sibling chaos the Amelia Fang series really has it all for the child who is negotiating their place in the world, and by the motley crew of friends with differences and glorious weirdness celebrates being unique, and tells children it’s ok to be different, and also ok to laugh at gross things!
‘but farting is what Vincent does best!’
I adore how The Trouble with Toads like all the Amelia narratives show growth rather than staying static or formulaic muddling about with the same old story or foe as some series get stuck in for fear of changing what children love or are comfortable with. Instead with each book Anderson opens up the Kingdoms and Amelia’s life and family to explore more and more, here a delightfully odd Toad Kingdom and sibling problems.
The bravery to move forward rather than keep repeating is a fantastic choice and indeed the decision now to leave it where it is (perfection) I have nothing but praise and love for Laura and we will be waiting eagerly for her next project.
I am delighted to have taken part in the Blog tour for The Trouble with Toads and I urge you to check out the other stops celebrating this amazing series!!
Amelia Fang and the Trouble with Toads by Laura Ellen Anderson is published by Egmont