Frankly, Frannie

written by A.J. Stern
illustrated by Doreen Mulryan Marts

A.J. Stern's Frankly Frannie
illustrated by Doreen Mulryan Marts

Book review by Ramona Heikel

Ages 6-9

A little girl with big words and big ambitions

I looked and looked and looked for a great kids’ book that excited me so much I had to bubble over in a review about it, and when I read the first page of Frankly, Frannie I knew I’d found it. I immediately decided that I wanted to hang out with Frannie as she tries to keep up with her own ambition, understand the adults in her life, and shares her philosophies of her world.

As Frannie narrates the events and thoughts of her days, we can hear her exclaiming important truths with kid-fonts sprinkled into the large standard font, and the most extraordinary revelations and impressions are typed in shadow-fonts (which our humble webmaster is unable to reproduce).

She notes that she is very smart about such things as the meaning of “really small smiles,” and speaks in absolutes: “It is a scientific fact…”

Besides using adult-sounding words like “certainly” and “actually,” Frannie creates and revises words like my son did when he was a toddler, often finding our established language lacking in sufficient emphasis and ability to accurately convey her emotions. “I practice liking mustard by smelling it as oftenly as possible.” After gym class the students were “still feeling run-aroundy,” and at some wonderful news, the whole class “sucked in a fast gulp of happiness.”

Frannie longs to have a job, to be a part of the important world of grown-ups, and sees no reason why she can’t start right now. “I love clapping-back songs,” she says. “If there are jobs other than teaching where you get to song-clap, I want to work at one.”

For Christmas, Frannie has asked for an office assistant. (Her parents are thinking about it.)

She calls herself “Mrs,” loves staplers and rescues her dad’s discarded brief case to carry her resumé to the school field trip, hoping to be discovered as the next radio talk show host. And while she is there she takes charge of some unexpected situations, confident that her very grown-up assessment is wise and helpful, even heroic, not realizing that she is actually setting up a town-wide crisis.

Frankly, Frannie
book review

I adore Frannie’s parents, who encourage and enjoy their spirited daughter. They don’t seem to mind that she changes her name frequently (this time to Frankly), and treat her as an equal during discussions, but when she disobeys the rules she has to pay the consequences. Even the illustrations seem to merge Frannie’s mental age with the adults around her. They are simple and childlike, and the adults look almost as cute and young as the children.

Every single page of Frankly, Frannie is a delight. This book makes me wish I was in elementary school again and reading many more like it every day, learning big new words without even noticing I was learning. I can’t wait to read A.J. Stern’s next Frannie B. Miller book and enjoy another inside-and-outside smile that lasts for 124 pages.

Read more of Ramona's book reviews.

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