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I eat as well as I am able,
But some falls underneath the table.
--Frances, Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs
The Frances Books
by Russell Hoban
Illustrated by Lillian Hoban
With the possible exception of The Mouse and His Child, the Frances series are the best-known of Mr. Hoban's works for children. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban, they are primarily concerned with the experiences of a precocious and high-spirited badger puella by the name of Frances. Most of the stories revolve around Frances (no surprises here) learning a lesson of some sort: say, that there are other enjoyable foods in the world besides bread and jam, or that if it's your little sister Gloria's birthday, it can be more satisfying to actually give her the Chompo bar you bought as a present than to eat it yourself. Frances is generally a welter of conflicting emotions, inclined to burst into tears just when she seems to be getting her way. Though Mr. Hoban is writing for very young readers here, the sophisticated wit we know and love from his adult novels occasionally peeks through, most notably in the non-sequitur-laden verses Frances is given to break into.
Indeed, it is in Frances' exquisite collection of badger verse entitled Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs that we discover her true nature as a young zen poet. Consider the powers of observation displayed in "Almost the End," from a series entitled Stone-Kicking Song:
Mister Stone never talks rolling down the middle
Of the road, but in streams he will sing a little.
Or her Telephone Pole Stone-Throwing Song, in which she demonstrates an awareness of sabi that might have impressed Basho himself:
While you're holding up your wires
Lonesome and alone
I will come to visit you
And throw a friendly stone.
Seymour Glass, call your office.
Many of the Frances books have been translated into Spanish, in which tongue she is known as Francisca. The illustration at the top of this page is the Spanish-language version of Bedtime for Frances (La Hora De Acostarse De Francisca).
Other titles include:
- A Baby Sister for Frances (La Nueva Hermanita De Francisca)
- A Bargain for Frances (El Gran Negocio De Francisca)
- Best Friends for Frances
- A Birthday for Frances
- Bread and Jam for Frances (Pan Y Mermelada Para Francisca)
- Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs (poems)
(About Bread and Jam for Frances):
"The humor and the writing style are, as always, delicious"
--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Makes its point for fussy eaters--and their parents--gently, amusingly, and most effectively."
(About Egg Thoughts And Other Frances Songs):
"Frances the badger fans will be delighted with this collection of Frances songs. A real charmer: add this one to your collection of Frances books, or introduce a new reader to this loveable badger."
MEMORABLE LINES AND PASSAGES:
Frances was in the broom closet, singing:
Happy Thursday to you,
Happy Thursday to you,
Happy Thursday, dear Alice,
Happy Thursday to you.
'Who is Alice?' asked Mother.
'Alice is somebody that nobody can see,' said Frances. 'And that is why she does not have a birthday. So I am singing Happy Thursday to her.'
'Today is Friday,' said Mother.
'It is Thursday for Alice,' said Frances. 'Alice will not have h-r-n-d, and she will not have g-k-l-s. But we are singing together.'
'What are h-r-n-d and g-k-l-s?' asked Mother.
'Cake and candy. I thought you could spell,' said Frances.
'I am sure that Alice will have cake and candy on her birthday,' said Mother.
'But Alice does not have a birthday,' said Frances.
'Yes, she does,' said Mother. 'Even if nobody can see her, Alice has one birthday every year, and so do you. Your birthday is two months from now. Then you will be the birthday girl. But tomorrow is Gloria's birthday, and she will be the birthday girl.'
'That's how it is, Alice,' said Frances. 'Your birthday is always the one that is not now.'
--A Birthday For Frances
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A Complete list of Russell Hoban's books for kids