Figuring Out Frances

3.67 avg rating
( 12 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780395915103: Figuring Out Frances

With a light touch, this insightful novel charts a fourth grader's course through the complexities of family and friendship. Abby is trying hard to understand the things that puzzle her. One is her friendship with Travis Mooney, who seems to be turning into just another obnoxious boy. Another is a mystery: Why does Grandma, who has Alzheimer's disease, sometimes call her Frances? Who is, or was, Frances? Abby is convinced that if she can figure out Frances, she will know something new and important about herself. Along with the surprising and satisfying solution to this mystery comes the discovery that some things can't be figured out-but just as in doing a puzzle, putting all the pieces together is the fun part.

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About the Author:

Gina Willner-Pardo is the author of 15 books, including Jason and the Losers and Figuring Out Frances, which won the Bank Street College of Education Josette Frank Award. She lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Review:

A tender, at times lovely story about what happens when two middle-graders, friends since babyhood, find the gender gap yawning between them. Abigail is delighted when Travis transfers to her school, but she is confused and deeply angry when he ignores her and hangs around with boys she doesn't like. The story captures not only the innocence of early boy-girl friendships but also their intensity, as Abigail has to give up the conversations, games, and sharing she is used to having with her friend. At the same time, she is also coping with her grandmother's Alzheimer's disease, her father's long hours, and her mother's controlling habits. Grandma keeps calling Abigail "Frances," and it's Abigail's search into Frances' identity that leads her to other epiphanies, among them finding her own interests and seeing her mom in a new way. The center of the story, though, is the unsentimental sweetness and real pain of changing friendship, as Travis steps back from her because of being teased, and Abigail realizes she cannot accept a furtive loyalty. A small treasure.

Sept. 15, 1999 Booklist, ALA

Abigail has been looking forward to having her best friend, Travis, attend her school, and is devastated when the fifth grade boy doesn't want to be associated with her, a fourth grader, during school hours. Worse, he betrays her trust, joining a group of boys who tease her about her crazy grandmother. Abigail's grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's, has started calling her Frances, and Abigail believes that if she could ``figure out Frances'' and find out why her grandmother confuses them, then maybe ``I could figure out myself a little bit too.'' In addition to coping with Travis and unraveling the mystery of Frances, Abigail has to come to terms with her less-than-attuned friend Marlene, and try to win her hard-to-please mother's understanding. Willner-Pardo (Jumping into Nothing, p. 637, etc.) effortlessly keeps the subplots in play, while Abigail's incisive remarks``I had the feeling that if Mom and I had gone to school together, we'd have had totally different friends''have a ring of authenticity. Most readers will be gratified by the genuinely moving ending.
Kirkus Reviews

"characters are filled with human failings and virtues and are truly likable...writing is witty, sincere, and insightful...a gem of a book." School Library Journal, Starred

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