Thursday, January 26, 2012

Funny Frank, by Dick King-Smith :: Read Aloud Thursday

Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope Is the WordTime for another Read Aloud Thursday hosted by Amy at Hope is in the Word.

(To link up to Read Aloud Thursdays, click over to Hope is in the Word.)

We're on a roll with Dick King-Smith but I'm kind of ready to get off this little kick. As I mentioned when I talked about The Water Horse - (click to review, then find the book and read it) - King-Smith is sort of a hit-or-miss author for us. Funny Frank was another miss. At least for me.

The gist of Funny Frank is this: Frank is a chicken who wants to be a duck. He keeps wandering into the pond even though his feathers aren't water proof and he lacks the necessary webbed feet. He isn't designed to be a duck, but he wants to be one. His mother is ashamed of him and wants nothing to do with him. Thankfully for Frank, his human friends understand his wish to swim and make him a "swimming suit" and create some rather fantastic webbed feet to allow him to live his dream and be with the ducks.

Frank is happy enough until he grows up and realizes that there are nice aspects to being a chicken. One can scratch in the dirt and run in the meadow, among other things. In order to coax Frank back into chickenhood, his human friends bring him a female chicken whom he falls head over heels in love with and they presumably live happily ever after - as chickens, of course.

On its face, I suppose Funny Frank could be just that - funny. But my modern mind links this story to various political and social situations and I simply found it difficult to be amused. Frank earned the title of "Funny" not because he was funny in a "ha ha" sort of way but in a "you're an odd duck" (literally) sort of way. Peculiar is the word that is used. This story caused me to finally get around to looking up a little bit of information on King-Smith to see if perhaps there was an agenda behind this tale. In short, I believe the answer is no. (You can correct me in the comment section if you believe otherwise. I'd be curious to hear from someone else who has read this story.)

I had no idea that King-Smith wrote over a hundred stories, the first being published in 1978. (He only died this past January, 2011.) Funny Frank was published in 2001 and so I'm suspicious as to what King-Smith was trying to communicate, ultimate, with this particular story. A few websites referenced it as being a sort of retelling of The Ugly Duckling and I can certainly see that. I'm just not sure what else I'm supposed to see - if anything. I certainly am not a fan of reading books to my five year old with political/social arguments attached and because I feel like King-Smith was arguing a point it just didn't sit well with me. (I'm purposefully being rather discrete with this post, but I suspect the regular readership around these parts will catch on to the issue I'd be concerned with by reading the above paragraph describing the storyline.)

These were the things I didn't care for in the book:

1. Feeling like the author was arguing that we should be who we feel we are but not who we were created to be;

2. The relationship between Frank and his mother. At the beginning of the story she is trying to figure out why he is spending so much time with the ducks instead of the chickens. He responds that the ducks are much more clever and implies that she is a "stupid chick" who doesn't know what she's talking about. He shows little respect for his mother and scorns her. She is portrayed as an airhead who doesn't have a clue about life in general and is extremely judgmental towards Frank's swimming suit; and

3. The romantic relationship introduced at the end of the story involving Frank and the hen who is brought to the farm to 'lure Frank back to the fold.' The way that Frank and the hen relate to each other is perfectly juvenile and I couldn't even bring myself to read this conversation out loud to Bookworm1:

"Hello, handsome," said the pullet. "Where have you been all my life?"

Inside a wet suit, thought Frank. "I think we've met before," he gulped.

"We certainly have not," replied the speckled pullet. "The only guy I've met since I arrived last evening was a weird-looking wally dressed up as a duck. As different from you as could be, lover boy."

I made them speak much more plainly when I brought them to life out loud.

It is with some relief that I can say that Bookworm1 didn't seem to care much about this story. It was a fast read and there are pictures on every page so we moved through it very quickly. I don't think he caught on to any of the underlying messages which may and/or may not exist (on purpose) here. I shelved the love-talk and we completed the story and moved right on to another book. There are serious doubts in my head that Bookworm1 will even remember this story and I have to say I won't be keeping it around to refresh his memory or introduce this particular story to any of my other kids. We'll just say goodbye to Funny Frank and move on.

Obviously this is not one I recommend. That said, have I mentioned The Water Horse? If you write over one hundred books, I suppose you're allowed a gem or two! :)


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Yeah, an agenda driven book (whether real or perceived) makes for not-so-fun reading! I'll skip this one. :-)

Bluerose said...

I'm curious about this one only because I haven't figured out what the message MAY have been. ;) I'm NOT curious enough to read it, though!
It usually does make it hard to read a book when I suspect underlying messages I don't agree with. I can only think of one book that I still love despite the possibility. I love it enough to re-read it, so I'll just hope that it wasn't actually there!

Barbara H. said...

Yeah, I can see how it sounds like an underlying agenda may have been part of the story. I'd rather stick with the real Ugly Ducking story than this variation.

bekahcubed said...

Mercy, that "romance" sounds awful. That alone would be enough for me to give the book a questionable review--add in potential worldview/agenda issues and I completely understand your panning it.

Laura S Reading said...

Were the illustrations good?

Sherry said...

The "dating dialog" does sound a little over the top ridiculous. I've heard of King-Smith, but I've not read any of his many books. I'll have to remedy that hole, but with another book.

Shonya said...

Alas, I'm so far behind! But thanks for reviewing this book for us. I, too, am quite suspicious of an underlying message! Sigh

Stephanie Kay said...

I suppose if you write over a 100 books you'll have some that are great and some that are awful. One would hope that editors wouldn't publish the awful ones but that's clearly not the case.

Top  blogs