CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 18 . . . .May 13, 2005
Franklin the Turtle has been a Canadian picture book icon since his appearance in the late 1980's. Created by Paulette Bourgeois and brought to life by the illustrations of Brenda Clark, he had a certain unsophisticated charm. Furthermore the prescriptions in his stories about being afraid of the dark, the need to share and the pitfalls of fibbing - have made him popular with parents and grandparents as well as young readers.
More recently, like that curious monkey George and Arthur the aardvark, Franklin made a jump into a successful television series and thence back into books based on those film episodes. And as with George, the books based on the television production, be they in picture book, board book or beginning reader format, are somewhat pallid imitations of the originals. New authors, some of them screenwriters, take credit for the texts, and the illustrations, taken from the animation cells, are simpler and lacking in Clark's colourful detail.
Franklin's Cookies features Franklin and his friend Bear making cookies, supposedly to share with younger siblings who are late coming home. The smell and taste of their cookies prove too much, and they eat them all and have to make a second batch. This plot owes a fair amount to one of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories, and it is pleasant without being particularly original.
In Franklin's Library Book, the dread of owning up to losing a library book sends Franklin to storytime in disguise and necessitates a frantic hunt around the house and to the park where the book is found being used by friends to follow its instructions for making a kite. Again, this is a story early readers will probably enjoy without its having anything special to recommend it.
These "Kids Can Read" books are labeled level 2 and have good clear typeface and an open page design. Overall, I would say the books will be popular among young Franklin fans because of the character recognition and because they provide useful reading practice, but not because they rise above the everyday in material for beginning readers.
Recommended with reservations.
Ellen Heaney is Head of Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library in New Westminster, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.