REVIEW: Franny K Stein – Lunch Walks Among Us by Jim Benton
Dear Mr. Benton,
A good friend of mine steered me in the direction of the Franny K. Stein books. Her daughter loves them so much that she was crushed when she discovered that she couldn’t make her own monster. Or at least….not yet. Her daughter is still young though so who knows what she’ll be up to in ten years!
Franny and her family live in a cutely painted house on Daffodil Street. It’s bright and cheery except for a room with a round window at the top. That’s Franny’s room and she likes it dark and scary. Her mother can’t understand where all the bats in Franny’s room keep coming from but Franny likes them. “They’re like rats with pterodactyl wings,” she’d say. “What’s not to like?” Franny has other amazing things in her room such as bubbling beakers and buzzing electrical gizmos she made herself. Oh, and a tarantula, a snake, and a flying piranha.
Since Franny and her family just moved to Daffodil Street, Franny is new in her school class. The other students don’t know what to think of Franny, who wants to be friends, but who is so different. Franny likes her teacher Miss Shelly, even if Franny thinks Miss Shelly would look better with a white streak in her hair and Miss Shelly doesn’t really believe it when Franny says she’s a mad scientist. Miss Shelly does know how to motivate Franny to try and make friends. “Think of it as an experiment.” An experiment is the one thing Franny can’t resist.
But Franny’s efforts to fit in just aren’t working. Her homemade dolls, Chompolina and Oozette, aren’t like the other girls’ dolls. Lunch is a challenge too since all the children have white bread sandwiches instead of Franny’s shish kebabs, casseroles and stews. During recess Franny is about to offer one of her live bats for the softball game when she discovers that there’s more than one kind of “bat.”
Franny goes home and examines her notes then whips up a concoction to transform herself into … a nice kid. Kind of boring but nice. Her family is stunned by the change. Her mother is amazed by Franny’s request for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But Franny still rubs her hands together in a mad-scientist way. School doesn’t go quite like Franny expected and she missed Chompolina – who now has glitter and a unicorn – and thought her sandwich was squishy and boring. She enjoyed playing softball with the other children – though she thought a giant squid eye-ball or a skull for a ball would be more interesting.
Not everyone is pleased with Franny’s experiment. Miss Shelly is questioning Franny on the wisdom of transforming herself so radically when suddenly! a scream tears through the room. Franny quickly assesses the situation and realizes – Gadzooks, it’s a Giant Monstrous Fiend!
Now it’s up to Franny, and her mad-scientist brain, to save the day.
I love that Franny transforms herself back into the old Franny in order to take control and overcome the Giant Monstrous Fiend (aka the Pumpkin-Crab Monster). She calmly and coolly directs the other children and uses her smarts instead of running around in circles screaming. Mad-scientists, even if they’re only four feet tall, can be very persuasive. Franny even figures out a way to use everyone’s boring lunches in her plan to defeat the Fiend.
But better still, Franny gets accepted by the other kids for being exactly who and what she is. And the book even comes complete with a few pages from “Franny’s Book on Monster Making Techniques.” I’m looking forward to the other six “Franny” books already. B