11 June 2007

A Hard Bargain for Frances

Mark Dominus at the Universe of Discourse blog has provided an economic analysis of A Bargain for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban. He finds that the book might be too sophisticated for his two-year-old to understand on first reading. Which I'm sure is true. Sometimes I think the emotions in the Frances books, especially the later ones, are both too subtle and too raw for me.

After discussing the concept of "backsies," Dominus adopts his wife's suggestion that Frances's friend Thelma is actually thinking of herself when she says:

I know another girl who saved up for that tea set. Her mother went to every store and could not find one. Then that girl lost some of her money and spent the rest on candy. She never got the tea set. A lot of girls never do get tea sets. So maybe you won't get one.
Thelma could indeed be speaking of herself and her mother. But I think she's also cleverly playing off Frances's anxieties, softening up her friend for the hard bargain that Thelma knows will bring her that tea set. We know from A Birthday for Frances that our little badger sometimes can't help herself around candy. Thelma's words will make her worry about being able to keep saving her coins. Why not go for the immediate gratification of Thelma's plastic tea set?

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