Friday, September 26, 2014

Frank! by Connah Brecon

Frank is always late and school is no exception. It's not that he doesn't want to go to school, he just can't resist helping the creatures he meets along the way. What's a guy to do when faced with a bullying ogre, charity dance-off, or runaway tree? When his class needs help though, will Frank be able to save the day?

This story is definitely quirky. Frank rescues a cat from a tree, then "the tree had become angry with Frank for climbing all over it and ran off." The final emergency involves a "giant zombie lizard king" and Frank's expert dancing skills. It's a funny, imaginative, light-hearted romp.

Brecon's art is unique and colorful. It reminds me a little of Leonie Lord's illustrations for Martin Waddell's The Great Hungry Dinosaur perhaps crossed with Sophie Blackall. It's as quirky as the story, with bright splotches of color, scribbly accents, and little touches of cartoon humor, such as the popping eyes on the pigeons. There's a slightly cock-eyed perspective to the leaning buildings, bulging hills, and bursts of clouds. The best part of the art is the many little details in the pictures including the opposing newsboys "Cranky King" vs "Reptile Rampage" and the humorous antics of the pigeons.

I think some people would like the quirky plot and wild events that Frank runs into, but most of the more subtle details of the art will be lost on a younger audience which is what I primarily have. Also, a couple things give me pause - the typeface, which has an old-time typewritten look to it, may not be the easiest thing to read aloud in storytime. The speech bubbles that include extra dialogue are brightly colored and difficult to decipher as well. The endpapers have a naturally water-damaged look to them (I'm envisioning having to write a note in the back of the book that it's NOT water-damaged, it's supposed to look like that). Finally, one of signs an onlooker at the dance-off is holding says "two left feet suck!" As someone who once got in trouble at the middle school for saying suck (It was a book title!) that gives me pause. Most of my parents probably won't even notice, but it's something a few might definitely complain about.

Verdict: I can see an audience for this and it does have a fun, quirky feeling to it, but I think it might be a better choice for a larger library than my own; my patrons aren't much interested in fresh or new art styles or picture books for older readers. I'd say it's probably an additional purchase for most collections.

ISBN: 9780762454235; Published September 30, 2014 by Running Press; Review copy provided by publisher

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