A Baby Sister for Frances – Russell Hoban

More in the Series – Frances
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 5 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: 2 points.

I was fairly lukewarm about the first Frances book I reviewed on here, but, while this one scores only slightly higher, I enjoyed it a lot more than the first one. Where in the first one, Frances’ parents’ style of parenting felt far too indulgent to me, in this book it feels more like gentle reverse psychology than giving in to demands. And I have to love Frances’ spirit and fire.

It passes the Bechdel significantly more emphatically than the first book – Frances has a couple of much more in depth conversations with her mother. And it addresses the complicated feelings an older child may have about a new baby sibling with compassion and warmth. Frances is obviously a bit put out by her parents’ divided attention, but at the same time is pretty proud of her new role as big sister.

When she “runs away” (to under the dining room table), her parents have a really lovely conversation about her as if she wasn’t there about her important role in their new and changing family, and about how much they love the songs she makes up. I love how their appreciation and love for her is entirely connected with who she is and not just a simple lip-service to the parent-child bond.

There’s a lot going on in this book, given its audience. Hoban has a knack for addressing the complexities of the emotions going on, without making it too dense or even too saccharine. He doesn’t go for the simple answers, really, and retains a real sense of Frances as a character – no easy feat in a children’s book. Bedtime for Frances lacked, in my opinion, this nuance, but in this one, he has definitely hit his stride, and captured the complexity and warmth of real familial affection.

Good stuff.

 

What do you think? Do you agree that this is better than the first one? What’s your favourite Frances book? Do you know of other children’ books that manage to hit this kind of nuance?

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