Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Review: Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

I am a picky eater. Always have been. Wish I weren't! Life would be easier and, I imagine, taste better. Ten years ago when I announced I was moving to New York my sister declared it a waste on me, particularly all the good food, considering that I only would eat 3 kinds of cheese. (I now eat at least a dozen, thank you very much!)

As you can imagine, this drove my mother crazy. There is only 1 food she doesn't eat (okra). At times when I was a child it seemed like there was only 1 food I would eat (like Frances). I remember battles about whether or not yellow rice tasted like egg (and a dumbfounded retort, "but you like eggs" and me saying "but not rice that tastes like eggs!") I remember being threatened to be forced to eat fettuccine for breakfast, and I spent hours glaring at beets. I very, very much identified with Frances. In fact, I think she caved in a little bit early. However, at her age I loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and that's all I would eat for lunch... until I completely burned out on them (on the jelly mostly). And I haven't eaten one since third grade.

Lillian and Russell Hoban are brilliant artists. I know it's probably a little tacky to do the same author/illustrator two weeks in a row, but a lucky little girl will be getting my copy of this book tomorrow so I need to be sure to review it while it's in front of me. The Hobans understand how children think. Little kids often just sing to themselves, as Frances does. The cleverness makes these books one an adult can read over and over and over again. I love when Gloria gets a string bean to practice with. I love when Frances gets just juice for breakfast and it's actually set in the middle of her plate.Albert's incredibly elaborate lunch makes me hungry. I want a cardboard salt shaker. And it is nice when you can make the food come out even. That's important. It cracks me up when Frances asks if her teeth will all fall out from the jam and her mother says not for "quite a while." Her parents, being both consistent (good parenting) and also well-drawn characters by the Hobans use similar techniques in Bedtime for Frances and I think the most important thing they do that makes this technique work is staying nonplussed and acting like it is no big deal, and having the patience to take the silliness out as long as necessary to make their point and get Frances to come around and see the opposite point of view on her own.

I am going to now go eat a pickle, thanks to Albert.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.


avisannschild said...

I loved Frances as a child and still love these books now! My favourite is A Bargain for Frances (which I think is the only one I had as a child, although I have 6 of them now). I named one of my cats after Frances' friend Thelma (my Thelma wasn't as mean as Frances' friend!). And I was a picky eater as a child too (and some would say still am, although much less so).

I'm off to eat a pickle too!

Julie P. said...

I might be crazy but I think I had this one on a record! I remember listening to it over and over again. Or at least I think it was this one!

Jeane said...

I remember the Francis books, from when I was a kid. This one was one of my favorites. I always read about Albert's huge lunch and wondered: how did he fit all that in his lunchbag? and now what will he eat tomorrow?

Carin Siegfried said...

Jeane - that's so funny what tou said about how can Albert fit all his food in his lunch box - I made the same comment when I read the book to my friend Friday night (mother of lucky little girl.) I did go and eat a pickle after writing this post. Julie P, I wouldn't be surprised if you did have a record of this. It was much wordier than I remembered.

Susan said...

My 5 year old granddaughter just discovered Frances. She was home sick last week and I was downloading shows from OnDemand for her to watch. Frances was one of them.

She fell in love with Frances. She was so excited when I went to the library and was able to bring her home a couple of books to read.

The shows were wonderful to watch. Since she is learning to read she had a lot of fun comparing the book to the show.

Carin Siegfried said...

Susan, I had no idea they made Frances into a TV show! Wow! But I am scared by the image on the page you linked to. It looks pretty afar from Lillian Hoban's brilliance.

Susan said...

I can't remember whose picture was on the page!!

Here is the link to the Henson Channel. It only has one Frances video.


There are other short segments on YouTube.

Here's the DVD that includes a book + 3 stories

I think they did a good job especially since they got my granddaughter wanting to read the books even when she wasn't feeling well. She is usually a drama queen when she is under the weather.