Today, my niece and nephew (primary inspirations for the blog) turn 6! They recently started kindergarten. This post is a tribute to both of those milestones. For their birthday, I gave them a series of books that I learned to read on: Russell Hoban’s Frances series. The Frances books are about a sassy badger and her attempts to navigate childhood’s great challenges.
I distinctly remember sitting on the carpet in kindergarten, Bread and Jam for Frances in hand, and discovering I could read the whole thing all by myself. My mother always said I had just memorized it by then, but that’s not how I remember it… Regardless, it was a truly empowering moment for my little self.
Bread and Jam for Frances describes Frances’ struggle to eat anything besides…you guessed it, bread and jam. She is a picky eater like many young children. She thinks she is too clever for her parents, artfully getting out of every meal and eating only bread and jam. But it turns out, her parents are really good badger parents — they don’t make a fuss about what she won’t eat and eventually, she overdoes it on bread and jam, and returns to eating a more diverse diet.
Bedtime for Frances describes another common parent-child dilemma — bedtime. Frances is a master in delaying her bedtime with requests for a snack, a story, and more. Her parents know just how to handle it, though, and they carve a bedtime ritual out of the many demands.
Best Friends for Frances is really my favorite from a Fair Play perspective. Frances wants to befriend Albert, but Albert doesn’t want to play with girls. This is a common encounter for young children, and we learn from Frances how to handle it. Frances also discovers she can turn to her sister Gloria for companionship when others aren’t being very nice.
A Birthday for Frances was the final, necessary addition to a birthday package of Frances books. But actually, this book isn’t about Frances’ own birthday. Instead, Frances and her family are preparing for her little sister’s birthday. Frances gets jealous with all the preparations for a great party. As her mother explains, there are birthdays 365 days a year and for 364 days, it is not your birthday. Like the other Frances books, this one also is an exercise in navigating common childhood dilemmas, and a charming tale to boot.
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