I just finished having a conversation with my son about not needing to tell people everything that you are thinking when I happened to pick up Being Frank ($16.95. Flashlight Press, ages 4-8) written by Donna Earnhardt and illustrated by Andrea Castellani. With its quirky vintage looking artwork and its big sense of humor, this new picture book is absolutely perfect for helping school-aged children grasp the subtle nuances of truth telling.
After hurting his friends’ feelings one time too many because of his credo “Honesty is the best policy,” young Frank seeks out his grandpa for some advice. Fortunately for Frank, Grandpa Earnest has mastered the fine art of tactfulness and teaches his grandson exactly what it takes to share one’s opinion without hurting someone’s feelings. Not so easy, true. But it can be done. For example, when Mrs. Peacock walks by displaying her extravagantly plumaged new hat and asks Earnest if he likes it, he knows just what to say. “… there are an awful lot of flowers up there. But my favorite is the purple one in the middle.”
So when Mr. Wiggins, school principal and toupee wearer dances at the school carnival what does the formerly insultingly honest lad say? “I see you have two left feet, sir?” NO! Not the new and improved Frank. “Impressive spins, sir!” remarks Frank. There are smiles and laughter all around that afternoon when, rather than repeat to Dotty that her freckles remind him of the Big Dipper, Frank tells his friend, “I like dots better than squares.” Clearly Grandpa’s lesson that frankness is best served with more sugar and less pepper has left a lasting, and sweet impression. Kids will agree the book has just the right amount of all the best picture book ingredients to make this one a keeper: great art, funny character names, clear and concise language and an important message about honesty. To leave a great taste in the mouth, serve carefully measured amounts.
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Today’s reviewer is Ronna Mandel.