Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban

As I mentioned last week, my little friend A will soon be becoming a big sister, and as a big sister myself, I am trying to show her the ropes. Plus, I have started her Frances collection and this one had been a glaring hole.
One of the best things about the Frances books is her songs. My mother used to make up little tunes to sing them which were excellent. I know a lot of parents don't feel comfortable doing that but you should. You kid isn't going to judge, and a song should be sung! Even Frances's parents comment on how much they miss her songs, after she runs away to under the dining room table, to protest being ignored in favor of Gloria, her new baby sister. And her marching song (which sounds like it would be excellent although we only get 1 line of it) precipitates the conflict. The Hobans are so brilliant at capturing how little kids think and act which I think is a large reason why these books are still so beloved 50 years later. I was struck by the scene when Frances goes to her room "and took some gravel out of the drawer where she had been saving it." That's so perfect for a little child, and yet something most adults have forgotten they do! I also like how Frances sits under the kitchen sink because it's cozy. Grown-ups have forgotten how sometimes it's nice to sit under the sink or in the coat closet or squeeze under the bed. That authentic child's voice is enchanting to children who immediately recognize a kindred spirit.

Of course the reason Frances's parents' reverse psychology to convince her to "come home" (from the dining room) really works is because they use it to show Frances how much she is appreciated, and how valuable her position as big sister is. And at the end, also they point out to her there are advantages to being a big girl (eating chocolate cake).

I think A will love this book as much as the others, and now I'll be on the lookout for A Bargain for Frances, Birthday for Frances, and Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs for her. Meanwhile, she is lobbying for her little sister to be names Frances. So far she's not making much headway, but I suggested Gloria might be a nicer name, and a good name for a Baby Sister.

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


Unknown said...

A Baby Sister for Frances just sounds precious. My little niece London just became a big sister, so I'm thinking this might be a perfect Christmas present for her!

Julie P. said...

I love the Frances books. I remember having A BARGAIN FOR FRANCES and a record that I played/read over and over again as a child.

Anonymous said...

This absolutely my favorite book to give to any child about to become a big brother or sister!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Frances was a major figure in our household several years ago. Some lines from her books have made it into our family dialogue.

Rachel said...

I loved Frances books when I was little and my boys love them now. Your review really captured why kids love them so much - I hadn't really thought it out before.