Books by John Frank

LEND A HAND by John Frank
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2014

"At once familiar and slightly out of the box, these giving scenes gently suggest that even the smallest acts can inspire and achieve great ends. (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)"
Frank and Ladd join forces to present common opportunities for children to help others. Read full book review >
KEEPERS by John Frank
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2008

In Sharon Creech's verse novel Love that Dog (2001), Miss Stretchberry knew how to engage her student Jack with poetry. Here is a collection seemingly directed at Jack and those classmates who might on their own dip into verse with simple rhythms and rhymes. Such is the appeal of this collection of 30 poems about objects found at the beach, in an attic, at flea markets and other places. The major drawback of this collection is the dated, nostalgic quality of both verse and subject. Robbins's astonishing photographs provide background to the poems and a necessary jolt of contemporary visual excitement, stealing drama from the verse. It is a shame that there is no author's or photographer's note about the creative process: How did Robbins find a piece of wood that so closely resembles the "Driftwood Bird" Frank describes? Perhaps Miss Stretchberry could ask Jack and his classmates to write their own object poems inspired by these amazing photos, enabling them to join the ranks of such poets as Ralph Fletcher or Valerie Worth. (Poetry. 8-12)Read full book review >
HOW TO CATCH A FISH by John Frank
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

There definitely isn't just one way, as Frank and Sylvada demonstrate in deft poetry and impressionistic scenes of anglers worldwide. The text, which can be read as either one long poem or a series of untitled short ones, creates a harmonious rhythm with subtle shifts of beat and occasional rhyming: "Propelled by currents swift and strong, / our fishwheel rotates round and round, / its soft metallic hollow sound / as rhythmic as a beaten drum. . . . " In the art, indistinct figures—almost invariably an adult and a child together—cast lures, flies or nets, stand in boats or drop lines off a dock, check for likely spots or proudly display catches. Along with glimpses of ice fishers on Baffin Island, snorklers in New Caledonia, seine fishers in Tobago, cormorant tenders in Japan and more, sensitive young readers will catch a feeling here for the universal ties between parent and child that rise from any shared activity. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
THE TOUGHEST COWBOY by John Frank
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2004

This tall tale—which demystifies the taming of the Wild West—stars cowboy Grizz Brickbottom, who flosses with barbed wire and drinks a quart of Tabasco sauce a day. One lonely night by the campfire, Grizz decides it's time for some silkier, sweeter company than his crusty compadres. Specifically, a dog. As luck would have it, he finds a "Free Dog" sign in a nearby town, and here's the punchline: the free dog is a fluffy miniature poodle named Foofy! The poodle's contrast with the rough-and-tumble cowpokes serves up plenty of sight gags, as the next thing you know they're fussing over her food and grooming, even tying little bows in her hair. Once nomads, the cowboys move to town and set up shop because they all become fond of bathing and the smell of soap. Thus, the Wild West is tamed. Pullen's comical oil paintings, with their stunning Western landscapes and deliberately distorted cowboy caricatures, fit this clever tall-tale read-aloud to a T. The full-bleed photographs of burlap on the endpapers are a nice touch, too. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
A CHILL IN THE AIR by John Frank
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

In simply phrased verses, nearly all previously unpublished, Frank notes in sequence autumn's changing leaves and dropping temperatures, the appearance of snow, ice, and bitter winds, and then early signs of spring at last. Though the language sometimes turns clunky—"I ran to catch it in my hands / Before it touched the ground, / And brought it home to keep among / The treasures I have found"—there are occasional flights of imaginative imagery, plus redeeming flashes of humor, such as the suggestion that Halloween witches had better wear thermal underwear. Not so in the illustrations, though, as Reed's leaden, sharp-looking, identically shaped leaves and stiffly posed human figures give many scenes a monotonous look, compounded on one spread by a child's puff of breath that expands to a page-filling cloud, thus contradicting the accompanying "I see each word I speak / take flight / a whiff of fog, / then disappear." Though there's never enough poetry, particularly for younger audiences, this collaboration is too uneven to consider as more than a secondary choice. (Poetry. 5-7)Read full book review >
THE TOMB OF THE BOY KING by John Frank
BIOGRAPHY
Released: April 9, 2001

The exciting tale of the archaeological dig that resulted in the discovery of the incredible treasures of King Tut's tomb. All the details are included: the difficulty in obtaining and maintaining financing, the daily tedium and labor, the superstitious belief that there was a curse on the site and, of course, the amazing riches they found. Frank (Erin's Voyage, 1994, etc.) brings the characters of Carter, Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn, and Abdul Ali to life and manages to convey the mystery and wonder surrounding the venture in a fast-paced, almost breathless account—told entirely in verse. Frank has chosen to use a somewhat awkward ABCB rhyme scheme. But the main problem lies in the lack of consistency. Only a few of the stanzas are self-contained thoughts. Most are incomplete and continue, not always smoothly, onto the next stanza. Some of the poetry sings, but sometimes the reader is stopped cold. Therefore it takes some effort, and several readings, to find just the right flow in Frank's verses; they need to be read as a kind of rhythmic prose. Younger readers may find the style too difficult and would probably benefit from an initial read-aloud by an adult. But it is definitely worth the effort. An epilogue presents a great deal of additional information, and leaves some questions, especially that of the supposed curse, intriguingly unanswered. The lovely, softly colored illustrations are a charming mixture of Egyptian motifs and detailed paintings depicting well-chosen vignettes from the story. A great way to pique interest in a discovery that's still fascinating after so many years. (Poetry. 8-12)Read full book review >
ERIN'S VOYAGE by John Frank
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

When Erin visits the attic of her grandfather's country house, she is enchanted by the discovery of an old doll packed in a brass-hinged wooden box. Her grandfather allows her to keep it when she promises to take good care of the precious find. But late at night, Erin is awakened by the wind and drawn out of the house on a mysterious, sea-bound adventure, with the doll tucked safely under her arm. Alone at sea, she meets another little girl and learns the name and history of the beautiful doll. The highly colored, expressionistic illustrations are sure to dazzle, although a story that appears to encourage solo midnight boat trips may be one that will give parents pause. (Picture book. 4-6) Read full book review >
ODDS 'N' ENDS ALVY by John Frank
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 30, 1993

Alvy has a reputation as transformer of salvaged objects; still, his classmates are astonished when his souped-up desk zooms away during recess. Thus begins a frantic getaway, including encounters with bikers and a strongman plus a stop at home to feed the dog. Karas combines photo images with zany cartoons; the desk leaves tread marks on a crayon and watercolor playground, then zips into a real cityscape. In one witty scene, Alvy's bulky crayoned figure contrasts with the photo of a businessman. But while the art startles and delights, the storyline bolts and jolts. Readers ready for Alvy's glorious creations get only one; for more excitement, they'll have to look to the varied typefaces in the imaginatively chaotic collage. But audacious print treatment doesn't make up for the story's triviality, while the hooliganism of its logic (the desk stops at Alvy's door but not for a speeding train) will make readers ready to abandon the rickety ride. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >