Reading List

“A little frog work maybe.”

Wow, I missed my granddaughter, M., during our year plus of quarantine separation. (I also longed for in-person time with her parents, my oldest son and daughter-in-law, but they hadn’t spent as many hours the previous year snuggling next to me on the couch reading.) After dinner last night, we played Bird Bingo (highly recommend!); after dinner together on Tuesday night, she brought me a pile of books, and the two of us pretty much ran to the couch and squished up against each other on the center cushion. M. (and I) have reading levels far above picture books, but the best ones are deeply nourishing, and we have the perfect excuse in each other to enjoy them.

M. had chosen a few of Russell and Lillian Hoban’s works, since she and I both share a love and sympathy for Frances and all the ways she moves through her days—eating, singing, playing, sleeping (or not sleeping). We started with Bread and Jam for Frances—you know how I feel about toast, as well as a wide variety of other foods, so the Hobans speak my language— and even though we had already eaten, M. and I both had our appetites whetted, especially for more Frances books. We realized we were out of order with A Baby Sister for Frances, since in Bread and Jam, Gloria is already sitting up and making noises at the dinner table. We moved onto Best Friends for Frances, which is my favorite among all the Frances books. (Least favorite: A Bargain for Frances, where Frances’ tricky friend and her cheap plastic tea set just make me sad, despite Frances’ skillful resolution of their conflict.)

In this simple story of two summer days spent in game-filled wanderings intersected by a picnic, Frances, her sister Gloria, and their friend Albert (with cameo appearances by another friend, Harold), the group manages to turn on their heads a range of gender, age, ability, size, and relationship stereotypes (“How can a sister be a friend?”) while offhandedly cataloging picnic hamper contents that are only rivaled by Rat’s in The Wind in the Willows, all in addition to offering widely applicable and quotable lines. What is the hard-to-explain thing we do in the world that we love with our whole hearts, but that may be difficult for others to understand and contribute to? “A little frog work maybe.” What do we really want when we ask to join someone else on an adventure? “Could I come along on the eating?” “You mean outing.” What about all the times we feel as though we’ve gotten in over our heads (even if that means just having overpacked the food basket)? “That is what best friends are for.”

Maybe find your copy of the book (or borrow mine)? Maybe invite a beloved to join you? Maybe experience a few Perfect Moments at the end of your long work week?