Hoban, Russell. A Birthday for Frances. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. New York: Harper & Row, 1968. Print.
Above image from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24904.A_Birthday_for_Frances
The picture book A Birthday for Frances, written by Russell Hoban, explores the complex landscape of sibling relationships, including jealousy and love, in a simple and sweet story about a family of badgers.
Little Gloria is having a birthday, and her older sister Frances is a bit jealous of all the attention she’s getting. Frances would prefer to play with her imaginary friend than help with the birthday planning, and the two sisters have a fight over Frances’s general surliness and an incident that happened a year ago.
But Frances is upset when she finds out she won’t have a gift to give Gloria. She asks for an advance on her allowance and goes with her father to the candy shop, where she buys a Chompo candy bar and four gumballs. On the way home, while in conversation with her father, she “accidentally” eats the gumballs, and questions whether Gloria should have only half the candy bar, because she’s so little. Her father bemusedly suggests he hold the candy bar to “take care of it,” and they head home. At the party, when her little sister’s birthday wish is that Frances would not be angry at her, and that she was sorry for the previous year’s incident, Frances feels guilty, sings to her, and gives her the ENTIRE Chompo bar.
Reminiscent of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories in its focus on the small things necessary to negotiate relationships, A Birthday for Frances uses a child’s very relatable feelings, impulses, and actions to tell poignant but funny story. This is a good read-aloud book, because the story is engaging, but the words might be a bit too difficult for very young or emergent readers. Nevertheless, Hoban’s writing is clear, the typeset on the pages easily read by younger eyes, and there is plenty of white space between short lines and on the pages. Illustrations take up most of the space in the book– drawings are charming, and very colorful in shades of orange and green. The use of songs is particularly fun for readers, as they can sing new, silly lyrics to familiar (“Happy Birthday to You”) tunes. And everyone can relate to Frances in this book.