Monday, July 3, 2017

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban illustrated by Lillian Hoban

With our Kindergarten classes we have been exploring some books about food and eating.  Everyone enjoyed Oh no, Monster Tomato and The Disgusting Sandwich.  I remembered a teacher long ago told me her favourite picture book was Bread and Jam for Frances so I decided to explore this classic book (1964) this week.

First off there was the unintentional connection with The Disgusting Sandwich because both books feature a badger.  This is a cute animal but one that would be unknown to my Australian students which is why I adore sharing picture books from around the world.  We were able to look at some photographs of badgers and discover a little about their habits. The second thing was a link to music. We had sung the songs in Oh no, Monster Tomato and Wombat Stew.  Even though there is no actual music I enjoyed making up little tunes for the various songs Frances sings all through Bread and Jam for Frances.  My favourite song comes near the end when she is quite sad and certainly tired of eating bread and jam :

Jam for snacks and jam for meals
I know how a jam jar feels - 
FULL ... OF ... JAM!

I especially loved the lunches in this book.  Albert makes the lunch come out even - he has a cream cheese-cucumber-and-tomato sandwich on rye bread, and a pickle to go with it. A hard-boiled egg with salt, a thermos of milk, grapes, a tangerine and "a cup custard and a spoon to eat it with."

Frances also has a wonderful lunch after her week of just bread and jam - a thermos bottle of tomato soup, a lobster-salad sandwich, celery and carrot sticks, black olives, salt, plums, cherries "and vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and spoon to eat it with."

Bread and Jam for Frances contains a story that will be familiar to young children and their parents. Mother and Father are patient, wise and kind and the language of the story is beautifully crafted with gentle touches of humour.

Gloria "had already eaten her dinner ...but she liked to practice with a string bean when she could."

This reminded me of the wonderful food in Where's Julius by John Burningham.

Here is an audio version of the whole book where you can hear the narrator singing all the songs. Here is another older version. Something I did not realise - all the titles about Frances begin with B. Bedtime for Frances, A baby sister for Frances, A birthday for Frances, Best Friends for Frances and A bargain for Frances.  Russell Hoban wanted to maintain the good luck from his first book.  Read details of the whole series here.

There is a television series about Frances.  I am not sure it quite has the charm of the original.

Here is an illustration from the book by Russell Hoban's wife Lillian.  Garth Williams illustrated the first book then Lillian took over.

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