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Frannie in Pieces
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Frannie in Pieces

4.4 5
by Delia Ephron, Chad Beckerman (Illustrator)

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What does you in—brain or heart?

Frannie asks herself this question when, a week before she turns fifteen, her dad dies, leaving her suddenly deprived of the only human being on planet Earth she feels understands her. Frannie struggles to make sense of a world that no longer seems safe. She discovers an elegant wooden box with an inscription: Frances


What does you in—brain or heart?

Frannie asks herself this question when, a week before she turns fifteen, her dad dies, leaving her suddenly deprived of the only human being on planet Earth she feels understands her. Frannie struggles to make sense of a world that no longer seems safe. She discovers an elegant wooden box with an inscription: Frances Anne 1000. Inside, Frannie finds one thousand hand-carved and -painted puzzle pieces. She wonders if her father had a premonition of his death and finished her birthday present early. Feeling broken into pieces herself, Frannie slowly puts the puzzle together. But as she works, something remarkable begins to happen: She is catapulted into a foreign landscape suspended in time where she can discover her father as he was B.F.—before Frannie.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Ephron writes with ease and agility…this is an exceptional story.”-
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
“Wonderful, multifaceted story weaves the best of science fiction, coming-of-age, family relationships, teenage angst, and mystery together with humor and perfect pacing.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
“Ephron writes with ease and agility…this is an exceptional story.”-
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“Ephron writes with ease and agility…this is an exceptional story.”-
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Ephron writes with ease and agility…this is an exceptional story."-
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Ephron writes with ease and agility…this is an exceptional story.”-
Publishers Weekly

When 15-year-old Frannie stumbles upon an elaborately carved box bearing her name as she is sorting through her late father's art studio, she assumes she has found a birthday present that he made for her before his recent, untimely death. Inside she finds a handmade, 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle; assembling it distracts Frannie from her grief and her growing obsession with death. But sometimes, usually when she is exhausted, the connected puzzle pieces seem to pull her inside them and transport her to a foreign place where she sometimes glimpses or even talks with a younger version of her father. In deftly conjuring up the magical element of this otherwise realistic novel, Ephron (How to Eat Like a Child) explores themes about "puzzling" relationships, the process of mourning (which leaves Frannie "in pieces") and seeing the larger picture. Frannie, an artist like her father and at odds with her more conventional mother and stepfather, feels too much pain to connect with anyone else, including her best friend. Whether or not Frannie's journeys into the jigsaw puzzle are figments of her imagination (plenty of evidence suggests they are not), her brief visits to its world have a profound psychological effect, answering some of her questions about love, art and life. Truths about Frannie's long-divorced parents emerge suddenly in a gratifying climax that forces Frannie, and readers, to reassemble her picture of her family and herself. With this imaginative and insightful first YA novel, Ephron, co-screenwriter for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, should easily capture a new audience. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

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Children's Literature - Kathryn Erskine
Ephron captures the voice of a teen struggling with many issues, including her father's death, her mother's remarriage, the halls of high school, losing her best friend to a new boyfriend, and being forced into a camp counseling job for the summer. Amazingly, the result is mostly laugh out loud funny with just the right amount of poignancy. Insisting on wearing her Dad's funky clothes and keeping his art and odd treasures, Frannie delves into a handmade jigsaw puzzle he made, trying to understand its messages. What she learns from these trips both about her parents and about life may be a result of dreams or her subconscious mind, or actual trips to into a fantasy world; it is not quite clear. Perhaps that, like the choices Frannie must make, is up to the reader. Along the way, Frannie will grab your attention and your heart as she makes up with her friend, her mom, and others in her life. Reviewer: Kathryn Erskine
Children's Literature
Frannie is a teenaged girl whose bitterness over her parents’ divorce turns to grief when she discovers her father’s body. Dead from a heart attack, her father has left all of his possessions to Frannie, his only child. He was an artist and hidden in his belongings is a beautifully carved wooden box with Frannie’s name on it. Inside the box is a handmade jigsaw puzzle. Frannie secretly begins the tedious task of assembling the puzzle and an amazing landscape gradually appears. Frannie is certain that the small town in the puzzle is the Irish village where her Dad was born. The detail is so realistic that Frannie literally gets pulled into the picture. As her work on the puzzle progresses, Frannie gets pulled into the scene several more times. On her third and final visit into the landscape Frannie meets her father and slowly learns the significance of the puzzle. Frannie carefully contemplates every delicate detail of the puzzle and she eventually realizes her father’s true intentions. Fortunately, this discovery brings Frannie the closure she has unknowingly been seeking. This novel is both engaging and touching. Teen readers will easily identify with Frannie as she struggles with the strong mixed emotions that young adults so often experience. Reviewer: Denise Daley
VOYA - Kathie Fitch
Frannie is horrified to discover her beloved, eccentric father dead on the bathroom floor. She lives with her mother and stepfather but treasured her Wednesday visits with her father. He leaves everything to her, including a beautiful hand-carved box decorated with Celtic knots and inscribed FRANCES ANNE 1000. Inside the box are 1,000 handmade puzzle pieces. Keeping the box and its contents a secret, she makes an elaborate wheeled tray so that she can hide the puzzle under her bed as she works on it. She assumes that it is a scene of an Irish village, but as the puzzle takes shape, Frannie is transported into it and reunites with her father. Frannie is a gem of a girl. Her descriptions of her clunky jewelry-wearing aunt as a "walking wind chime" and her own hair as a "shoulder-length hedge" add humor to a story of bereavement. She is forced to work as a camp counselor and has her campers collect household products that have Poison Control warning labels for a collage project that does not gain parental approval. She struggles with her mother, who is married to The Mel, whom Frannie thinks cannot compare with her adored father. Best-friend Jenna suddenly leaves their friendship to pursue James the Chef. This wonderful, multifaceted story weaves the best of science fiction, coming-of-age, family relationships, teenage angst, and mystery together with humor and perfect pacing. Although Frannie sometimes seems a bit immature for her fifteen years, any young lady who utters, "The eyes see only what the heart lets them," is wise beyond her years.
Kirkus Reviews
The world is full of things that can kill you, and 15-year-old Frannie knows this. She's become intensely aware of the dangers around her ever since she found her father, dead from a heart attack on his bathroom floor. When she finds an elaborate homemade puzzle labeled "Frances Anne 1000" while cleaning out his home, she becomes convinced that putting it together will somehow connect her back to him. Ephron tells her story leisurely, allowing Frannie to move back and forth between the present-tense narrative of her grief and her recollections of life with her artist father, both before and after her parents' divorce, weaving in subplots and complications both funny and revealing in conscious emulation of a jigsaw puzzle. So deliberate is the exposition that the introduction of Frannie's magical ability to enter the puzzle as she works it comes something as a surprise, appearing as it does more than one-third of the way through the book, and clashes with the everyday realism that has preceded it. Frannie's response to her situation rings emotionally true, however, and readers will enjoy the time they spend with her. (Fiction. 12+)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Frannie in Pieces EPB

Chapter One

Do you know what it says on a tube of toothpaste? In small print? You have to read the small print because they never tell you anything scary in large print. Large print is what they want you to see. Here's what the large print says: for best results, squeeze tube from the bottom and flatten as you go up. But the important stuff is small. Tiny. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.

You can die from toothpaste.

I tell my mom this at dinner. Although I'm not eating. I tell her I have a stomachache. Which might be true. My mom says that I don't have to eat, but I do have to sit with them. While stuck there, I focus on things that have no meaning to me, like my stepfather's hair. Jenna and I have discussed Mel's hair and the possibility of putting a hidden camera in the bathroom to record exactly how he gets it to do what it does. I suspect that he wets it and combs it forward so it hangs like strings over his eyes. It's hay colored and not too thick, by the way. Then he parts it on the right, and, with a flip of the comb, swirls it left so it dips over his forehead and swoops up again. Strangely, it retains its comb marks. Jenna thinks gel is involved.

Have you ever noticed, in the movies, when the point is that no one in a family is speaking-not because they're mad at each other, but because, between the kids and the parents, there is zero communication-the family is often silent at the dinner table, with only the sound of forks scraping plates? Well, life at my house is not like that. We have nothing in commonbut my mom won't shut up. Probably because she's laying on a veneer. Veneer, if you look it up in the dictionary, means "a thin surface layer. A façade." Listen to her: "There were fresh anemones today, I suppose they forced them or flew them in from a Central American country because they're at least three weeks early and they cost a complete fortune, I couldn't possibly make a profit on them, but those flowers are beautiful, it's like they have black eyes with long curly lashes, some of the petals are persimmon or colors you'd see only on a fish, and how about that delicate fringy leaf, like each flower is wearing a ruffled collar."

"Toothpaste can kill you," I say.

Now there is silence. I have achieved silence. You see, my mom can talk a streak, but eventually she has to take a breath, and when she does, I'm there.

"What makes you think that?" she asks eventually.

"It says so on the package."

"I bet you'd have to swallow a whole tube," says Mel.

"I'm sure he's right," she chimes in.

"In the Middle Ages they didn't have toothpaste." Mel teaches medieval history. "Queen Elizabeth the First brushed her teeth with pomegranate juice. That's why she never smiled for any of her portraits. She had hardly any teeth left."

"How fascinating," says my mom.

"It doesn't say you'd have to swallow a whole tube. It says, 'If more than used for brushing . . .' That's about two inches."

"I hope you're not going to stop brushing, too."

The "too" refers to my having given up silverware and china. My place setting is now entirely disposable. More on that later.

My father died. He died on March 24th. Two months ago. A week before my birthday. He lived in a house eight blocks away. I always visited him after school on Wednesdays.

"Hey, Dad, it's me."

There was no answer. My dad never forgets that Wednesdays belong to us, but occasionally something comes up and he knows that I know he'll be back. I dumped my parka and my backpack on the couch on top of the magazines. My dad reads-I mean, read-Newsweek and Time, plus a magazine called Fine Woodworking and Condé Nast Traveler, and he always left them lying around. "He lives like a college student," I heard my mom tell her friend Rachel on the telephone. I don't know what Mom meant exactly, but it's not true. Wasn't true. He loves junk. Loved. Great junk. Things other people didn't want. Things sitting on the curb waiting for Thursday.

In Hudson Glen, New York, where we live, Thursday is pick-up-big-garbage day. Which means that on Wednesday evenings my dad and I would go foraging. "We see the beauty, don't we, Frannie?" His couch is bamboo. Someone threw out a perfectly good bamboo couch except for a few gouges in the arms. And his coffee table is an old blue metal trunk with rusted locks. In the corner of the living room stands a stringless guitar, slightly warped. "Look at the shape, Frannie. Look what weather can do." There is a ton of other stuff-a doll's arm, a few large dominoes, a broken radio in green plastic, a cracked clock with the works showing, an old-fashioned black telephone with a circular dial and finger holes. My dad said, "Take away use and you have art." That's a very cool observation, and you should think about it for at least a minute. All the small objects we found dump digging, which is just what it sounds like, tramping through the dump searching for treasure. Everything we collected we appreciate, and I'm sorry to say my mom does not. "One putteth down what one doth not understand." That's not in the Bible, but it should be.

That afternoon the milk carton was sitting on the kitchen counter. Opened. My dad is always forgetting to put things back. I'm like him that way. So I put the milk back in the refrigerator, trying not to look too closely at what was inside. My dad never covers anything. It's like he never heard of Saran wrap, Baggies, or plastic containers. If he eats spaghetti, he pours what's left into a bowl and pops it, topless, into the fridge. Things grow fuzz and turn strange colors.

Frannie in Pieces EPB. Copyright (c) by Delia Ephron . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.


Meet the Author

Delia Ephron is a critically acclaimed novelist and screenwriter. Her most recent book, Frannie in Pieces, received four starred reviews, was a Book Sense Pick, and was named to the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list. She is also the author of Big City Eyes, Hanging Up, and How to Eat Like a Child. Her screenwriting credits include The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, You've Got Mail, Bewitched, Hanging Up, and Michael. She lives in New York City with her husband and their dog, Honey Pansy Cornflower Bernice Mambo Kass.

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Frannie in Pieces 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Rachel Heck More than 1 year ago
at some parts i got a little lost, but i love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was never into reading but when i picked this up i fell in love. I am alomst done with it a so far this book is outstanding:)!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Im still reading thos book but so far its great! It's upsetting when Frannie's dad dies though:'. I love how she says when stuff is a 'fact' not opinion! i recommened it.