Author: Andrew Clements
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks
ISBN: 0689818769 (Aladdin pbk.)
Audience: Ages 9-12
Summary: Nick Allen is a boy with plenty of ideas, like turning the third grade class into a tropical island (with sand and the thermostat set at 90 degrees). Nick was also the expert at asking the delaying question that kept the teacher off the subject until it was too late to give a homework assignment. Then Nick entered Mrs. Granger’s 5th grade language arts class. His delaying question,“Where did all those words in all of your dictionaries come from” , gets Nick an extra assignment to answer the question and doesn’t prevent a homework assignment. What Nick learns about how words get into the dictionary gives him the idea of making up a word- frindle. This is the name he assigns to a pen and in a very few days frindle is being used by all the students in school. Mrs. Granger wants this nonsense stopped but it’s out of Nick’s control. Indeed, out of her control. Frindle is the subject of a national TV news show; a local entrepreneur is printing t-shirts and pens with frindle on them. It seems to be war between Mrs. Granger and Nick and temporarily it looks like Nick wins. But the story isn’t over.
Literary elements at work in the story: Andrew Clements is the master of the school story. The informal style and short chapters are readily accessible to children . Teachers, parents, and students have legitimate problems but they are not drugs, sex, or child abuse. Nick Allen is a bright, funny protagonist; Mrs. Granger is a strict, wise, likable adult. And there is lots of information painlessly conveyed about dictionaries. Children will recognize school situations and delight in Nick’s strategies. Frindle won the Christopher Award.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This is a New Hampshire setting with white, middle class subjects. Mrs. Granger could be considered a stereotype except that she’s a distinct personality.
Theological Conversation Partners: The Word of the Lord. God communicates with us through a book of words. Isaiah compares God’s word to rain that nurtures plants and promises that it will accomplish God’s purpose. (Is. 55:10, 11) Clearly words are significant in God’s work with us. The Tower of Babel fails because the workers use different words; the day of Pentecost reverses the process when each person hears the gospel in his/her language. Words are important in our relations with each other. Bible translators struggle to find the right word to express what the Hebrew or Greek word is saying. Words are worth talking about and Frindle is a humorous way to approach the subject. In addition, Christians are called to teach and Mrs. Granger is a model of good teaching. This book could be especially valuable when students begin to use different translations.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Dictionaries are made up of words people use. How do we contribute to the dictionary?
- What gives Nick the idea for making up a new word for pen? What’s the problem with this approach to language?
- Mrs. Granger explains in her letter to Nick why words are important.(p.100) Do you agree?
- Christians have words that are especially important in our faith. Can you think of some? (Faith, forgiveness, salvation, redeem, gospel) Can you explain what they mean?
- What do you think are some of the most important words in the Christian faith?
- Our most important words can be found in a dictionary because they have been used through the years by ordinary people. Look some up.
- Examine a Bible dictionary.
- What are some Bible words that are important enough to remember? (Here the teacher or parent could share a Bible verse important to him/her.)
- Bible translators must change Hebrew or Greek words into English for us. This means choosing equivalent words carefully. Compare John 3:16 in several translations.
- Do you think Mrs. Granger was a good teacher? Why?
This book review was posted by regular contributor Virginia Thomas.
Frindle by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.