Meet the Classic and Endearingly Human Badger Named Frances! She Has Lessons for Young Readers to Learn That are Timeless!
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban
If you’ve not stumbled onto the classic picture book “Frances the Badger” series, created by the wonderful writing/illustrating team of Russell and Lillian Hoban, 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; over and over again to the exclusion of tasting a variety of what is served.
And oddly enough, I know parents that take the line of least resistance and serve up the limited child selected menu, time after time, rather than using persuasion for eating what is served.
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 bounce and thud that introduces the escapades of the badger that is more human than mammal. In researching badgers, as I have a penchant for them, I found they are in the same classification as weasels, otters and ferrets; but Frances is unlike any badger you may have encountered.
She’s the cat’s meow!
Lillian Hoban, who created the illustrations, makes Frances both child-like and relatable to both young readers and parents. Her depictions of this badger facing the hurdles of growing up will be familiar territory, and may give you and your young readers some valuable lessons and parental strategies on negotiating life with children in a wonderfully and fully human way that doesn’t sidestep conflicts in the life of a growing child er badger.
Frances 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, 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’ mom’s answer to her daughter’s 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 here, 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…..
It’s sort of like the movie, “Groundhog Day”, for the foodies!
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.
It’s a classic picture book read not to be missed…or rediscovered!
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