Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell and Lillian Hoban
If you’ve not stumbled on to the “Frances the Badger” series created by the Hobans and enjoyed by readers for years, you are in for a real treat.
I chose “Bread and Jam for Frances” of the lot because let’s face it parents, every family has at least one picky eater or as my mom used to refer to it, being “finicky”. Fussy is also a term that I’ve heard used in connection with children who have, shall we say, an unusual penchant for a specific food.
Finicky was not a word tolerated in my house. I can still hear my mother saying those famous words, “I am not running a restaurant!” Menus were planned, meals served and the rest was definitely up to the individual –the eating part I mean. You could choose to eat what was served, if it was to your liking or push it around the plate if it wasn’t. Case closed. No exceptions or substitutions.
Frances, the endearing badger in this selection from the Hoban series falls into this category with a thud.
She is not exactly a wheedler, but she does try to use persuasion and logic in her arguments for her favorite food – bread and jam. Lillian Hoban, who contributed the illustrations has imparted an endearing, yet sly humanity to Frances and a kind yet firm resolve in the faces of her patient parents who are more authoritative than authoritarian if you catch the difference.
I love Frances’ moms answer to her daughters logical entreaties to get her way food wise with her spritely, “I think it’s time for you to go outside and play now”. No confrontational assertions, just the parental prerogative of a strong suggestion.
Their solution to the tiny badger daily requests for bread and jam is simple – give her what she wants!
Her initial exuberance fades quickly as she sees the same thing served at each meal as the family digs into veal cutlets with string beans or spaghetti and meatballs.
Her plaintive query of “Aren’t you afraid my teeth will fall out?” as she stares down at the umpteenth sandwich had me chuckling. This is exactly what a child might say. When all else fails, toss the ball back to parental responsibility and a bit of guilt thrown in. These parents are not biting. Her question is met with a look of sly and innocent surprise by her wise parents.
As a chastened Frances learns, there are all kinds of delicious foods to be sampled and tasted, with some found more to her liking than others. Frances’ parental approach I thought at the time was inspired since most children tire easily of the same thing and, after all, variety is the spice of life!
Allowing Frances to have the exact thing she wishes to eat, and only that one thing makes for a fun, family read. Kids will certainly identify with Frances, and parents with her mother and father’s attempts to stay one step ahead of her new eating preference.
Moral: Be careful what you wish for on your breakfast, lunch and suppertime plates. It may just begin to appear again and again and again and again…..
If you’ve not met this family of very human badgers, I highly recommend you give them a try. They could write a book on parenting if so inclined.
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