A Bargain for Frances
By Russell Hoban
Pictures by Lillian Hoban
In my own childhood, this book ranked among the treasured few that escaped exchange at the local used bookstore, remaining available instead for repeat perusal on rainy afternoons or waaaaay after bedtime, when I would push pages up to the orangey glow of my Humpty Dumpty night light, struggling to make out words.
Clearly, the drawings were not what held my attention. Even after reading the book tonight, it took a Google search to find out the Frances is, in fact, supposed to be a badger. (My guess had been chipmunk.)
What sets this story apart is Frances herself, a kind and caring heroine who still has enough cunning to escape a bad business deal. Girls are heavily socialized in the importance of being "nice," with wide-ranging consequences in everything from our adult relationships to the price we pay for a used car. Despite her inherent sweetness, Frances has chutzpah.
I can't help wondering: how might the world change, if we carefully champion such cleverness and self-assurance in all our little girls?
"A Bargain for Frances" does go on -- the story spans 64 pages, albeit in a commanding font. Still, tonight's rendition mostly held my overtired 2-year-old's attention (perhaps because of her passion for her own new tea set).
"Well," said Frances, "this time I do not have to be careful. We are not playing with boomerangs. We are not skating. We are having a tea party, and we are making a mud cake."
"Be careful anyhow," said Mother.
"All right," said Frances...