Some stories never get old or go out of style. The children’s picture books featuring Frances the Badger by Russell Hoban is a series which fits this bill. My children have aged out the books, or at least I thought so, but we’ll get to that a little later.
For the past several months, a lovely young homeschooling mother who is a friend of mine has been teaching our daughter to play the piano. Despite numerous attempts to offer her remuneration for her time and talent, the only thing she requests of me is that I read to her youngest children in exchange for the lessons. Since her native language is Korean, she’s determined that the time I spend reading to her kids is a valuable exchange.
Our home library is constantly evolving, so I’ve exhausted all the books we have which might sustain the interest of a three and five-year-old (even accounting for repeating books!). So yesterday I went to the library in search of books to read to the children this week. After reading through several newer children’s books and finding only two of nine worth checking out, I searched my mental Rolodex for specific authors that might suit my needs and narrow my search.
I originally thought of Arnold Lobel, but there was nothing on the shelf at that branch which sparked my interest. Then I remembered Frances, and all the stories about her that are funny, well-written, and teach lessons in ways that are profound and true without being preachy. My children thoroughly enjoyed the books when they were younger. I found copies of several books in the Frances series:
- A Bargain for Frances
- Best Friends for Frances
- Bedtime for Frances
- A Baby Sister for Frances
- Bread and Jam for Frances [my personal favorite]
While preparing breakfast this morning, I noticed our 12-year-old sitting at the table with the entire stack of books in front of her, saying to herself, “Ooh! I love these books!” She cracked open Bedtime for Frances, and got my attention as she read a funny exchange from the book out loud.
After several unsuccessful attempts to fall asleep, and several trips to her mother and father with various excuses and fears about things that go bump in the night, Frances’s father puts his foot down, exasperated with her constant interruptions which are disrupting his sleep:
Frances said, “There is something moving the curtains. May I sleep with you?”
Father said, “Listen Frances, do you want to know why the curtains are moving?’
“Why?” said Frances.
“That is the wind’s job,” said Father. “Every night the wind has to go around and blow all the curtains.”
“How can the wind have a job?” said Frances.
“Everybody had a job,” said Father. “I have to go to my office every morning at nine o’clock. That is my job. You have to go to sleep so you can be wide awake for school tomorrow. That is your job.”
Frances said, “I know, but…”
Father said, “I have not finished. If the wind does not blow the curtains, he will be out of a job. If I do not go to the office, I will be out of a job. And if you don’t go to sleep now, do you know what will happen to you?”
“I will be out of a job?” said Frances.
“No,” said Father.
“I will get a spanking?” said Frances.
“Right!” said Father.
“Good night!” said Frances, and she went back to her room.
We had a good laugh, and I realized that we never really age out of a good story. Russell Hoban, using Frances the little badger, provided children with great stories.
If you have young ones and you’ve never read these, you should check them out.