Sunday, April 27, 2008

Books We Love (the Frances books), part 1

Books We Love will be an ongoing service as Owl and the Glass Cat do their utmost to bring you back in touch with the classics you've grown to forget. You don't need to have children to appreciate these books--well written, beautifully illustrated, & funny!

Owl finds the phrase "second childhood" particularly offensive to both children and the elderly, and she respectfully suggests that it be banished from the language. Here at Owl and the Glass Cat Review, we believe that second, third and fourth childhood are all potential stages of development.
Tribute: Best Friends for Frances
The Frances books, written by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban (with the exception of Bedtime for Frances, illus. by Garth Williams), are delightful. All of them. And the badgers look so friendly! Absolutely. In Best Friends for Frances, our heroine is disappointed when her best friend Albert fails to invite her out on his "wandering day," which involves "throwing stones at telephone poles. A little frog work maybe. Walking on fences. Whistling with grass blades," and a spectacular lunch. In response, Frances takes her little sister Gloria out on an absolutely terrific-sounding picnic equipped for egg tosses, frog jumping contests and a veritable feast hauled in a little red wagon. Frances and Gloria march out carrying a sign that reads "Best Friends Outing. No Boys," but Frances relents when Albert apologizes and promises to not to exclude her again. Albert and Frances are great eaters, here and in Bread and Jam for Frances. Check out Lillian Hoban's many drawings of hard boiled eggs in eggcups, accompanied by multiple (even cardboard!) salt shakers.

A Baby Sister for Frances
A Bargain for Frances
A Birthday for Frances
Bread and Jam for Frances
Bedtime for Frances
Best Friends for Frances

The Hobans' full oeuvre may be chronicled later, but here's a special, advance shout out to Lillian Hoban's masterpiece Arthur's Honey Bear. The Arthur books are charming, too, and Arthur the Chimpanzee is so cute and sweet-faced in Hoban's crayon(like) drawings. This story is resonant with another classic, though not a Hoban book, called Ira Sleeps Over. Boys and their bears. Girls who are badgers. The Glass Cat may take a nap now, but first, please admire her lovely pink brains. Audibly. That's it. Good night.

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