Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

5 Stars

“I love that kid,” he said. “Get in line.”

If you would have told me a book about a quirky nine year old kid would end up being one of the best things I’ve ever read, I probably would have assumed you were smoking some wacky tobacky. But then I met Frank.

Frank comes to us via way of Alice – an assistant at a publishing house who has been assigned the potentially daunting task of being live-in help while reclusive author M.M. Banning writes her highly anticipated second novel . . . 30 years after writing her first. It’s a guarantee whatever Mimi churns out will be a bestseller, and that’s a good thing because courtesy of some swindling “investment advisor” she’s flat broke. She just needs to focus 100% of her energy on putting words on paper so someone needs to watch her son Frank.

In today’s world of labels, there are probably a ton of reviews trying to pinpoint exactly where Frank lands on the spectrum. Back in the dark ages when I was growing up, he would have simply been called “precocious” or “eccentric.” Once you spend a little time with Frank you’ll soon realize his personality and character traits are undefinable and there’s absolutely no reason to try and put a label on him.

This is one of those occasions when the book needs to do almost all of the talking so you realize what you’re missing out on by not letting Frank into your world as well . . . .

“What’s wrong with you?”

“The jury’s still out on that one,” Frank said.

Frank spends his days in top hats and tails and is “a devotee of film. Of mathematics, not so much.” You can’t touch his things – or him for that matter – but “that didn’t keep the kid from becoming an honorary citizen of my personal zip code.” He also “loved being bundled up and pressed against things; he was a big fan of tight spaces.” Humor is something that doesn’t come easily to him, so he prefers to be told “knock knock when you’re trying to make a joke” so he knows . . . .

“What else was there to say? His fingernails are dirty? He stumbled into our century through a wormhole in the space-time continuum? I’m worried he’ll julienne me in my sleep?”

Truly, what else is there to say? Let’s just give you a little taste of Frank so you can see for yourself how much you need him in your life . . . .

Like the time he decided to hitchhike home from school . . .

“I know it’s wrong to indulge in criminal activities, but I do like those black-and-white-striped suits and matching caps that convicts wear. They’d make excellent pajamas. Do they let you keep them once your time is served?”

“Convicts wear orange jumpsuits that zip up the front now. The cut is not slimming, and a redhead like you should steer clear of head-to-to orange,” I say.

“I will never hitchhike again.”

Or when the principal decided that Frank’s attire was a distraction that needed to be changed . . .

“Surely no one can want me to go out in public in a shirt meant to be worn as underwear.”

“Lots of kids wear T-shirts out in public and think nothing of it.”

“Lots of kids chase me around the playground, too, but that doesn’t make it right.”

Or when he returned to school after Christmas break with a whole new outlook . . . .

“Where are you going?” Frank asked.

“I’m walking you to class,” I said.

“That won’t be necessary,” he said. “This time I’m prepared for the worst.”

“You’re really brave, Frank,” I said. “I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you,” he said. “It’s easier to be brave when you’re carrying a knife.”

“Get back in the car.”

Of all the gin joints in all the world, I’m so glad Frank walked into mine . . .

“You need to fill the house up with more like him. You need to fill up the world.”

Words cannot express how thankful I am that I follow Margitte. Her review is the reason I ever even heard of this little slice of perfect.

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