Synopses & Reviews
This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web
. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.
Bank Street Children's Books "Best Books of the Year," Fiction Ages 9-12
Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers
Praise for Fleabrain Loves Franny
"Heartwarming and endlessly funny, Fleabrain Loves Franny will delight readers of all ages. Rocklin’s sharp wit and exuberant writing style are refreshing. This book is not to be missed."
"Franny—a compassionate, thoughtful and sympathetic protagonist—is believably erratic in her emotions and reflections on her illness and its effects on her previously carefree life."
"Rocklin perfectly captures the era of 1952 and creates a sympathetic, realistic character in Franny, who begins to accept her condition, rejoin her friends and even protest her school’s inaccessibility."
"Comedic and philosophical, readers will find multiple levels to enjoy."
--School Library Journal
"Wiles heads north from her familiar Mississippi terrain (Each Little Bird That Sings) for this 'documentary novel' set in Maryland during the Cuban missile crisis. Eleven-year-old Franny, a middle child, is in the thick of it her father (like Wiles's was) is a pilot stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. Wiles palpably recreates the fear kids felt when air-raid sirens and duck-and-cover drills were routine, and when watching President Kennedy's televised speech announcing the presence of missiles in Cuba was an extra-credit assignment. Home life offers scant refuge. Franny's beloved older sister is keeping secrets and regularly disappearing; her mother's ordered household is upended by the increasingly erratic behavior of Uncle Otts (a WWI veteran); and Franny's relationship with her best friend Margie is on the brink as both vie for the same boy's attention. Interwoven with Franny's first-person, present-tense narration are period photographs, newspaper clippings, excerpts from informational pamphlets (how to build a bomb shelter), advertisements, song lyrics, and short biographical vignettes written in past tense about important figures of the cold war/civil rights era Harry S. Truman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Pete Seeger. The back-and-forth is occasionally dizzying, but the striking design and heavy emphasis on primary source material may draw in graphic novel fans. Culminating with Franny's revelation that 'It's not the calamity that's the hard part. It's figuring out how to love one another through it,' this story is sure to strike a chord with those living through tough times today. Ages 9 12. National Poetry Month may be coming to a close, but these books should please young poetry lovers year-round." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Praise for What the Moon Said
“Rosengrens depiction of the Great Depression from a childs perspective rings true. . . . Sensitive and engaging.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“The story triumphs in its small vignettes.” — School Library Journal
“Esthers positive attitude offers a fine model for readers of this engaging historical fiction.” —Booklist
A Junior Library Guild Selection
"With 'Fleabrain Loves Franny,' Joanne Rocklin has brought into being perhaps the tiniest and most accomplished hero yet: a dashing, erudite, multilingual flea"
"Convincingly set in Pittsburgh in the early 1950s, when scientists were working on a polio vaccine, and attitudes toward people with disabilities were quite different from today’s, Rocklin’s story is a conscious homage to Charlotte’s Web, many a voracious reader’s favorite book."
"With keen insight into human (and insect) relations, Rocklin creates believable, three-dimensional characters—Franny’s goody-two-shoes older sister, for example, and Franny’s old gang of friends, fearful of contagion—that help anchor the off-the-wall-fantastical elements."
"A good choice for kids who like their history with a sprinkling of whimsy."
"This book is smart, funny, and very odd; it’s a love letter to reading and to the life-saving power of imagination."
"Strong characterization will make this story a favorite, and the smart, funny writing will attract readers."
The story of a formative year in 12-year-old Franny Chapman's life, and the life of a nation facing the threat of nuclear war.
It's 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits in with her family, and look beyond outward appearances. For Franny, as for all Americans, it's going to be a formative year.
Cold War anxieties play out in a sensitively told story set during the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, perfect for fans of Gary Schmidt and Kristin Levine.
Joanna cant get over how her brother broke his promise to never leave like their dad did. Sam is thousands of miles away on a navy ship, and no matter how often he sends letters, Joanna refuses to write back. When she makes a promise, she keeps it.
But then President Kennedy comes on TV with frightening news about Soviet missiles in Cubaand thats where Sams heading. Suddenly Joannas worries about being home alone, building up the courage to talk to a cute boy, and not being allowed to go to the first boy-girl party in her grade dont seem so important. Maybe sometimes there are good reasons to break a promise.
The tense timeline of the Cuban missile crisis unfolds alongside a powerful, and ultimately hopeful, story about what it means to grow up in a world full of uncertainty.
About the Author
Deborah Wiles is the author of the picture book Freedom Summer and three novels: Love, Ruby Lavender; The Aurora County All-Stars; and Each Little Bird That Sings, a National Book Award finalist. She has vivid memories of ducking and covering under her school desk during air raid drills at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She also sang in the Glee Club, was a champion speller, and hated Field Day. Deborah lives in Atlanta, Georgia. You can visit her on the web at www.deborahwiles.com.