Review: A Bargain for Frances

A Bargain for Frances
A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book #55 for 2015
PopSugar Challenge Criterion Met: A book that came out the year you were born.

I remember having a book in this series when I was a kid — A Birthday for Frances, perhaps? I had a record of it as well, and Mom would play the record while I followed along in the book. I remember not understanding the point of that story, and I feel pretty underwhelmed by this one as well.

Frances is going to a tea party at her so-called friend Thelma’s house, and Frances’s mother reminds her that Thelma is one to “be careful” with. But does Frances use her brain at all? No, she lets Thelma bully her into the “bargain” tea set deal. Then, after Frances discovers the betrayal, she cooks up her own scheme to get Thelma to make things right.

The moral of the story — whether it’s better to be careful or be friends — seems like it’s a good message if you don’t think about it too much. But actually, it’s kind of awful. Thelma is never taken to task for her bullying ways and has no impetus to change her behavior, and Frances gets to feel smug for repaying mean-girl tactics with more of the same. And doesn’t our society already do a pretty good job of drumming the “turnabout’s fair play” message into our psyches our whole lives long?

So, yeah, not a fan of this series. This one gets two stars because I like the illustrations.

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