Best Friends for Frances – Russel 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 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points.
Discretionary ideological points: 2 point.

This is the only Frances book we actually own, but it has been read to death, and I love it on so many levels. This one is a story about friendship and about gender and is handled with Hoban’s characteristic deft and humour.

It passes the Bechdel swimmingly since a big chunk of it is about the conversation and budding sister-friendship between Gloria and Frances. There’s a very clear message in the story about not being stupid about boys only games. When Frances made her “No Boys” retaliation sign for her and Gloria’s picnic, my kid got quite indignant. “I know he was bad cos he didn’t let her play with them, but no boys is still bad, Mommy!” We had quite a long conversation about consequences of being mean, and how if you exclude people it’s a bit cheeky to get upset if they exclude you back, but how he was right cos it’s not really a good response, albeit understandable. Honestly, I am not sure how much of it he got, but I think these are important conversations, and the book gets massive points for opening them up for us.

I also love the fact that after everyone makes peace, Albert assumes that he’s now Frances’ boyfriend’, and Frances’ response is that she’s not sure she’s going to let him be. There is something subtle here happening to do with assumptions about male-female friendship, and the fact that there’s no reason people can’t be platonic friends. It’s a touch heteronormative, but hey, we can’t have everything, and since much of this book is challenging standard assumptions about gender,. it’s not that surprising.

And on top of all this, despite the fact that there is some quite intense stuff going on in this tale it’s still totally entertaining. Frances and the people in her world have remarkably well thought out personalities for characters in a children’s book. It’s utterly delightful.

By far my favourite Frances book (though I think there’s one more to go with which I am unfamiliar), and highly recommended.



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