________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 13 . . . .March 3, 2006


The Four Franks. (Blue Go Bananas).

Sue Mayfield. Illustrated by Garry Parsons.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2006.
48 pp., pbk. & cl., $7.16 (pbk.), $18.36 (RLB).
ISBN 0-7787-2651-7 (pbk.), ISBN 0-7787-2629-0 (RLB).

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Robert Groberman.

*** /4



“It’s just like the one I sailed in,” said Great grandpa Frank.

Great grandpa Frank was a sailor long ago.

Once he was in a terrible storm.

Great grandpa Frank had to cling to the mast of his ship to keep from being thrown overboard.


The Four Franks is part of the “Blue Go Bananas” series of books. This volume, by Sue Mayfield, is the story of four generations of a family, all of them named Frank. The youngest member, a six-year-old boy, receives the gift of a toy ship from his father, a replica of the ship his great-grandfather had sailed on as an immigrant child. The toy has been passed from father to son for four generations. The boy loses the ship while playing near the beach, and the four Franks look for it. While looking, the youngest Frank learns his family history as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather share the history of this toy.

     Garry Parsons' illustrations appear on each page, sometimes taking the whole page with text placed on top, sometimes placed between paragraphs. Full-colour illustrations are used for present-day events, mono-colour illustrations are used for recent past, and black and white illustrations signal long-past events. These illustrations and their colourings help children to place the events in time.

     This is a picture book with a Guided Reading level of K. The vocabulary is challenging with words like “countryside” and “knitting” and “promenade.” This book would be best suited for a grade two student. The story will be of great interest to students at this age who are beginning to take an interest in history. The illustrations are attractive and invite the reader to move back and forth between text and picture. Everything here is illustrated, something which is so important to children who are moving from picture books to chapter books but still need illustrations to help them confirm meaning in what they are reading.

     After the story concludes, the book contains additional material. The story is reviewed in four pictures over two pages, and then the child is asked a series of questions about his or her own favourite toy, including “what is it made of?” and “what makes it your favourite?” This material is out of place. The “Go Bananas” people are trying to accomplish too much. The story of The Four Franks is interesting, and the illustrations are engaging. None of the rest is interesting or necessary.


Robert Groberman is a grade one teacher at David Brankin Elementary in Surrey, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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