Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beloved Frances Books

"So H--," said I to our four-year-old son one day, "What are some of your favorite books?"

He only paused for a moment. "Frances," he replied.

My husband and I heartily concur. All six Frances books by Russell Hoban easily claim high ranking in our family favorites, and keep improving with better acquaintance. I liked them when I was a child; I love them as an adult! Bedtime, Baby Sister, Bread and Jam, Birthday, Best Friends, Bargain, and even Egg Thoughts (the little known collection of poems) are well-written and insightful. Frances is a believable child, dealing with realistic challenges that are very familiar in our family (extended bedtime, picky eating, sibling rivalry, etc). She is not perfect like present incarnations of Curious George, Clifford and Thomas the Tank Engine (more on that in another post), but her character develops throughout the books in ways that children can identify with. The parents are wise, involved, and have a good relationship with their children (and each other). The songs she invents are witty and open to any tune you want to make up. Many lines in the story are highly quotable. And if you want to plan a picnic, use one of the delightfully elaborate menus described in Bread and Jam or Best Friends! (Both Betsy and I have done this with our then-future spouses.)

There is also a good audio version that H has enjoyed from our library, and as these books have not yet grown tiresome in our house, it is a good option for quiet-time listening.

I highly recommend that you discover or rediscover Frances. You are in for a treat and will not be disappointed!


  1. I really like this blog. Caffeine and kids books....I will definitely be back!

  2. I really like this blog. Kids' books and caffeine...I will definitely be back!

  3. I think I could read Bedtime for Frances every night and we would still enjoy it. Oh, those scary monsters. By the way, the newly illustrated ones (more color to the old illustrations) take away from Bedtime for me: the monster in the corner looks like a bathrobe from page 1 instead of the former shapeless blog (since you can tell that its color is different from the chair color). Any thoughts? And, I noticed today that there are some "gently abridged" versions now for early readers. Any thoughts?

  4. Ack!! I would certainly avoid abridged versions, no matter how "gently" the language is simplified. Why sacrifice the richness of the language? I believe Bargain for Frances was originally written as an easy reader by Hoban, without compromising the quality of his writing.

    I would be willing to read Bedtime more often just to be reminded to eat cake with my husband after the children have gone to bed. :-)

  5. Yes! We love Frances...we read A Bargain for Frances just this morning; and I found myself quoting "Egg Thoughts" while cooking fried eggs for the family...I do not like the way you slide...


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