Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

I haven't been really absorbed in a book in a while. Maybe it's because I've been reading new books by some of my favorite authors and my expectations are too high or maybe it's because I'm too distracted preparing for my move this week or maybe it's because they were just not as good as The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (DHOFLB)! I picked this up this week intending to read a few pages before going to bed. Then I found myself finishing it at five a.m. Oops! I know I should say I regret it, but it was totally worth it!

DHOFLB is about Frankie, who starts out as your average 15 year-old girl at Alabaster Preparatory Academy. Frankie's freshman year she relied on her sister Zada to introduce her around campus and watch out for her. She joined the debate club, made some semi-geeky friends, ate lunch with her sister, and life was ok. Then Zada graduated and Frankie spent the summer reading, relaxing, and developing curves that caught the immediate attention of her crush, a senior named Matthew Livingston. She's thrilled when she receives an invitation to a party she discovers is being thrown by a secret society called The Loyal Order of The Bassett Hounds and she's paired with Matthew as her date.

Ok, ok, I know what you're thinking, "Ack! Bleck! Another cheesy teen romance like a million others out there," but wait, there's more! It's obvious to Frankie that Matthew is a member of the Secret Order of the Bassett Hounds, but he NEVER talks to her about it even though she gives him ample opportunity to tell her, and the secrets drive Frankie crazy! She knows a little about the Bassett Hounds because her father was a member so when Matthew is called away when they are supposed to be on a date, she follows him and eavesdrops on the meeting. It turns out Matthew and his best friend Alpha are co-presidents in the group and it's Alpha who is continually calling Matthew away.

When Alpha is called away to a yoga retreat with his mom, Frankie decides to take action to get even with Alpha. She sends all the Bassett Hounds an email supposedly from Alpha and tells them that there is a change of plans for their Halloween prank. Frankie has come up with a much more entertaining and elaborate prank that goes off without a hitch. She's can't wait for Alpha to come home and recognize the change of plans and trace it back to her. Then maybe Matthew won't just see her as his sweet little girlfriend and appreciate her for who she really is.

Alpha doesn't react the way she predicts at all. He pretends to know what everyone is talking about and takes credit for everything. This angers Frankie and she sends him anonymous emails telling him to fess up the the Bassett Hounds, but he won't. She decides to beat him at his own game and continues to plan and direct crazy pranks around campus while pretending to be Alpha, hoping he will eventually come clean.

Now the plot and pranks are a highly entertaining part of the book, but the best part is Frankie and her feminist attitude. This turned out to be a total girl power book, but not in an obnoxious way, in a Frankie rocks like Kiki Strike sort of way. I love the way she sees things, like this quote:

"As the weeks passed, Frankie began to see that although Matthew welcomed people into his world with surprising warmth--it didn't occur to him to enter into anyone else's. She had to introduce him to Trish [her roommate] three times before he recognized her on his own, and he almost never came to Frankie's dorm room. If he wanted her, he called and asked her to come out and meet him

He didn't know of any of Frankie's Debate Club friends or the sophomores she hung out with from classes. He wasn't curious about her family. He expected her to become part of his life, but he didn't expect to become part of hers.

Lots of girls don't notice when they are in this situation. They are so focused on their boyfriends that they don't remember they had a life at all before their romances, so they don't become upset that the boyfriend isn't interested."

A pretty astute observation that made me think of some of my friends' high school relationships.

Of course as in all YA novels these days, the topic of sex comes up, but Frankie is not even close to being ready to have sex and is shocked when another couple implies that they are. It was a refreshing change from the other YA novels I've read recently. There are no shocking graphic scenes that ruin the book for me.

I also loved the information gleaned form Frankie's school report on a secret society called the Suicide club that's actually a real secret society. the society got their name from a Robert Lois Stevenson short story and they aren't actually about committing suicide, but living life to the fullest.

"Club members free themselves from the sense of surveillance generated by the panopticon. The panopticon makes them feel like they are always being watched, and they are determined to 1. go where they cannot be watched, such as into the sewers. 2. do what the imaginary unseen watcher would never want them to do, such as climb to the top of a bridge; or 3. behave in such unorthodox ways as to infuriate the unseen watcher, and yet technically not break any rules at all such as by having parties in graveyards, or dressing as clowns for the morning commute. Club members refuse to abide by certain rules, and they make people aware of the existence of those rules by breaking them in public situations."

I know that I'm going on and on, but I have to mention that I also appreciated the format of the book as a history of Frankie that implies that she goes on to become powerful and do great things and this is when it all began. Do I feel a sequel coming on? I hope so.

Oh, and if you love the book go check out E. Lockhart's website and blog. did you know that she's friend with authors John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Scott Westerfeld and illustrator Paul Zelinski? Wow! I don't think I could even form a sentence if I met any of them, let alone all of them.

Well, E. Lockhart, I have judged your books by their covers and lumped them in with some of the Ya lit out there that's a little too trendy for me, but I repent and I can't wait to pick up your other books!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Children's Literature Alphabet

A while ago, I put together a children's book character name game for a baby shower and it got me thinking about children's book character names. Now, I'm working on putting together a set of alphabet flashcards for my son, with a book character for each name, but I need you help. I'm having trouble coming up with characters for some letters (I don't want just any old random characters, but fairly well-known characters that I love because I'd also love to give away a few sets of these as gifts). Here's my list so far:




Amelia Bedelia






Berenstain Bears



Cindy Lou Who




Dr. De Soto






George (Curious)

George (& Martha)

George (Shrinks)








Jeremy Jacob

Judy Moody

Junie B. Jones



Knuffle Bunny







Fancy Nancy




Peter Rabbit





Q - ?


Rolie Polie Olie


Scaredy Squirrel

Strega Nona






Time Warp Trio


U - ?


Viola Swamp





Wild Thing

Wodnet Wat

X - ?

Y - ?

Z - ?
So which character would you pick for each letter? And what do you suggest for the letters that I'm missing? I'd love to hear your ideas!