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The Importance of Not Being Too Frank

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.

Find Being Frank related activities by clicking here.

Today’s reviewer is Ronna Mandel.

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dsc_0024Guest Reviewer Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for She blogs daily at Today she enlightens us about The Enemy: A Book About Peace by Davide Cali.

If I had met author Davide Cali on a plane flying to Italy (that’s where he lives) and he said to me, “I am writing a children’s picture book about war, enemies and killing,” I would have wished him luck and feigned sleep for the remainder of the trip.

the-enemy_low-resI would have thought, “That’s obviously not a good subject for a children’s picture book, is it? No one would want to read that to their kids!” To say the least, I would have been wrong. Dead wrong. The Enemy: A Book About Peace is so brilliantly done and offers such a powerful message about conflict and misunderstanding, that everyone – young and old – should read it. And yes, the point of this tale is all about peace.

The simple, adorable illustrations by Serge Bloch perfectly complement this sophisticated, yet simple story. The story is told in first person, in a most captivating manner, by one of two enemy soldiers. Each soldier sits in his foxhole waiting for a chance to shoot at the other soldier. The enemies never actually see each other, but know the other is there waiting to kill. They grow lonely, weary and hungry from waiting. The storytelling soldier even wonders if his enemy is looking up at the same stars every night. He wonders if that enemy thinks war is pointless too. And he really hates when it rains and soaks him as he waits for the enemy to attack. He wonders when this war will end. Out of desperation one day, he crawls out of his foxhole covered with leaves to disguise himself. This way, he can go over to the enemy’s hole and surprise him and shoot first.

enemy24What that soldier finds in the enemy’s foxhole changes his opinion about everything he had been told about war and the “enemy.” What happens after that, I cannot tell you. You’ll have to read this book yourself to see.

What I can tell you is that the message in this clever book is very poignant. The Enemy: A Book About Peace will really make you think deeply about everything from actual wars between countries, to enemy22conflicts between family members. In fact, if there is someone in your life you struggle to get along with, this book would be a perfect gift. While recommended for children ages 4 to 8, kids older than 6 will be better able to understand the concept of the story.

Buy it. And read it often. You don’t have to have a child or be a child to benefit from reading this book. It will be a worthwhile use of your time.


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