Franny Parker

Franny Parker

5.0 4
by Hannah Roberts McKinnon

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"Rings on a tree tell a story," Franny Parker tells Lucas Dunn. "They tell you about its seasons, if they've been plentiful or not." So far, the rings of Franny's life have been marked by her family, their farm, their dusty little Oklahoma town – all of it so familiar. But in the summer of her thirteenth year, the Dunns move in next door, harboring painful

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"Rings on a tree tell a story," Franny Parker tells Lucas Dunn. "They tell you about its seasons, if they've been plentiful or not." So far, the rings of Franny's life have been marked by her family, their farm, their dusty little Oklahoma town – all of it so familiar. But in the summer of her thirteenth year, the Dunns move in next door, harboring painful secrets. From the moment Franny meets Lucas, the two begin a friendship that introduces Franny to the large world beyond her barnyard fence. As their town endures one of the harshest droughts in decades, Franny learns that those in need are not just those others you hear about in church or school; they can be injured wildlife or even the family next door. When her own family suffers a loss, Franny must find the courage to look beyond her sadness to aid a friend in need.

This tender, beautifully written debut novel is the story of a summer full of promises and pain, a season that, although one of the hardest in Franny Parker's life, turns out to be plentiful.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Franny is a relatable and consistent narrator, the homey rural setting is thoughtfully rendered and the easy prose should appeal to reluctant readers.” —Publishers Weekly

“This debut novel is a poignant, emotional, and beautifully written coming-of-age story.” —Starred, School Library Journal

“Believable dialogue and well-developed characters enhance this promising debut novel.” —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This quiet debut novel addresses big themes of family, friendship, abuse and love with subtlety and honesty. Life is largely predictable for 12-year-old narrator Franny, who is devoted to her family, friends, animals and small Oklahoma town. But things become complicated one summer, when a single mother and her son move into the cabin across the street. Franny is eager to befriend the new boy, Lucas, who warns her that “sometimes people mean well, but they don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into.” When Lucas’s estranged and abusive father shows up, Franny and her family are anxious to help, but Lucas and his mother pull away. The bonds of friendship are tested by secrets, and Franny’s family’s barn is destroyed in a mysterious fire. In the end, Franny learns that some secrets are worth keeping, while others are too dangerous to stay bottled up. Though a few characters (particularly Franny’s five-year-old brother, Ben) occasionally sound overly mature, Franny is a relatable and consistent narrator, the homey rural setting is thoughtfully rendered and the easy prose should appeal to reluctant readers. Ages 10–up. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–Franny, 13, expects this hot, dry summer to be like all the others, but it turns out to be far from expected. Life in her sleepy Oklahoma town is woken up when Lucas Dunn and his mother move into the abandoned cottage next door. Franny’s life has been one of lemonade, quilting bees, and normal sibling arguments, and she soon learns that Lucas’s family is quite unlike hers. The close-knit town welcomes the Dunn family, enveloping them in their warmth and friendship, but Lucas and his mother seem to be harboring pain and dark secrets. A severe drought threatens many wild animals, and Franny starts her own animal hospital, which soon bursts with creatures in need. When Lucas’s alcoholic and abusive father shows up to reclaim his family, Franny is forced to discover many harsh realities in life. As the children’s friendship grows, she realizes that there are others besides the animals that are in need, but that giving help to people is often difficult. This debut novel is a poignant, emotional, and beautifully written coming-of-age story.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA
Kirkus Reviews
A first-person narration recounts Franny's 13th summer, in a drought-stricken Oklahoma town. Having taken on the care of wild animals in need, she spends much of her time in the family barn nursing baby birds, tiny mice and a broken-shelled turtle. When Lucas Dunn and his mother move in next door, it's quickly obvious they're hiding something, and secrets aren't easy to keep in such a small town. All becomes clear when Lucas's father turns up and resumes his abusive ways. Although she (having fallen for Lucas in a big way) and her parents reach out to the Dunns, as Franny's father says, "It's a strange thing, offering help. Sometimes the people who need it most don't want to take it." It is clear that Franny is recollecting a summer from a few years earlier, and McKinnon's evocative writing is often lovely, offering a more mature perspective than a young teen would have as she sums up the themes of that summer. Believable dialogue and well-developed characters enhance this promising debut novel. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Facts

When Grandma Rae Parker stole me away to the preacher on the morning of my kidnapped christening, she told him, “Bless this one just a mite bit more, if you will, dear reverend. She may be a Parker, but she’s got her mother’s look in the eye.” For that fact I am proud, because what Grandma Rae didn’t understand was that any trait shared with my mother was already blessing enough.

Daddy says Mama is part wolf. Mama’s love has teeth. Like the wolf who carries her pups real gentle in her mouth, then curls her lips back to show a sharp mouthful when she feels the need to be protective. That’s how Mama is with her pack. And that’s what Grandma Rae never understood.

Now about the kidnapping, I don’t remember any of it, being just a tiny baby at the time. I’ve got to rely on the story as Mama tells it, in a quiet moment before she tucks me in. Or as Daddy tells it at the dinner table, his eyes crinkling with laughter.

Grandma Rae, being who she is, thought she was doing a kind thing in sneaking my baby self to the preacher like that. Of course, Mama and Daddy didn’t know. They thought I was safe asleep in my crib down the hall. They were in the kitchen making pancakes, with no intention of having me christened on that day or any other day, according to Mama, so I can imagine they were none too pleased. But Grandma Rae wouldn’t hear of raising a baby without the Lord’s of.cial blessing, and said it was bad enough Daddy had gone and married Mama, who was what she called a free spirit. So that balmy summer morning she put on her Sunday best, and she took me off to church. All a secret, until Mama got a feeling she should put down her pancake and go check my crib. The mother wolf has instincts.

By the time they figured out where I was, I was christened. Of course that was a long time ago. It’s what you’d call a family story, one that may not have started out too funny, but has sort of smoothed out its hard lines over the years, each voice that tells it wearing down the jagged edges like wind on a mountain. We can laugh when we tell it now; the story’s gotten so it’s not so sharp when we hold it. These days when we recall it Mama just shakes her head and laughs in a light way that ripples like water. “It was a gesture, Franny,” she tells me. “Sometimes even the kindest ones get boxed up wrong and arrive on your front porch in pieces. You’ve just got to try to remember what it started out as, is all.”

I finally understood what Mama meant the summer of my thirteenth year. That summer there were many good intentions that turned out just .ne, and quite a few that turned out all wrong. Like the Fire Department’s Fourth of July The whole town gathered at the swimming hole, ready for a night of barbecue, toasted marshmallows, the works. But there would be no .re. Hours later, those sticks were just smolder and smoke. Kids cried, and the .remen held up their hands in apology. That was the picnic where we all ate our s’mores cold and hard. The .remen must’ve felt awful bad ’cause the next week they held a redo. And boy, was it! You could roast your marshmallow from .fty feet back. Finally they had to call in one of the trucks and hose down the barbecue. But no one complained. Everyone ate their charcoaled hot dogs in their soggy buns. We knew the .remen had tried their best. Mama was right about good intentions. This is the .rst thing you need to know.

The second thing is the importance of family. Our family is very close, and by that I mean that some of us are close in how much we like each other, and some of us are just close in geography. Grandma Rae says it makes no difference. “Franny,” she says, “family is all you’ve got.” On the walls of her butter-cream parlor hang pictures of Daddy’s Oklahoma roots. Deep roots, back to the .rst settlements in the Cimarron Valley. Grandma likes to refer to those pictures often, especially the ones where skinny-legged farm kids stand like poles, hands crossed stiffly in front of them. Very respectful, she tells us. Personally, I think those kids look miserable. But I like looking at my people.

Only a bike ride away from Grandma’s is our farmhouse, with its crooked porch swing that’s never empty for more than a minute, and Mama’s .owers busting out of the shrubs that line our porch. Out of control, as Grandma Rae says. In the back, Daddy’s vegetable garden rolls down our sloping yard to the river, and by August, when it’s close to bursting, it unravels itself, leading a parade of tomato and pepper and squash right to the water’s edge. In the fall, we keep an extra close eye on the pumpkin vines so we don’t lose a good jack-o’-lantern down the river. It’s happened before. Across the way is the red barn where my chestnut pony, Snort, lives, and by it the old silo leans toward the .elds where Daddy likes to bird-watch, almost like it’s pointing to our well-traveled route into the hills. My little brother, Ben, and I liked to lose ourselves in those fields, though it seemed a little harder to get lost each summer as I got older.

Finally, you need to know that summer is a state of mind. Picture the way it looks on a person: a sticky ice cream mustache, a late-afternoon hammock dream, a gauzy dress rolled loosely at the knee. Summer has a mood different than any other season, and it sort of infects people. Maybe it’s the hazy afternoons that go on and on, or the too-sweet lemonade, or the full-bellied moons that hang extra low in the sky, but I’ve noticed that kids and grownups are under a bit of a spell come summer. It usually strikes around July, and you can always tell when it starts. People act just a little crazy: gardening in the hot sun, wading into a farmer’s stream, declaring love beneath dark windows. Mama calls it summer fever. And that year the fever started on the same day a blue truck rolled into the neighbors’ driveway, the first Friday of July, beyond our red barn.

Excerpted from Franny Parker by Hannah Roberts McKinnon.

Copyright © 2009 by Hannah Roberts McKinnon.

Published in March 2009 by R.R. Donnelley Company.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Meet the Author

HANNAH ROBERTS MCKINNON lives in Sherman, Connecticut, with her husband and two daughters.

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