The English Romantic poets made much of our close connection to nature. They opened our eyes to dancing daffodils all about. While authors of children's books often engage children with the natural world, they rarely show in a fantastic way how close people and nature could be in the most ordinary of places. This cleverly outrageous picture book plays with the notion that a bird could nest in your hair. To Franny, an independent young redhead with wild woolly hair, this situation suits her just fine. The plot builds up to a family reunion in which she shines with her nesting bird, much to the awe of the assembled family and, later, before the camera on TV. Franny then surprises us by cutting her hair, which we find on a tree—the same tree seen earlier on the end papers—but this time with a bird nesting in some shaved red locks. Helen Oxenbury, British illustrator extraordinaire, takes an earthy, witty approach to the illustrations. Franny undresses and takes a bath before us. She's not shy. Franny is indomitable, with a sweetness of being and a singular nature. In a book about hair and its possible inhabitants, we get to enjoy the varied coiffures we see. Each one is unique, but only one holds a brown bird. The authors combine writing experience in child psychology and in biology. Lerner is known for her work on anger, the anger is diffused here by the protagonist's innocent bravado. In remote places, Goldhor has followed mice and sheep-guarding dogs and in her other work, is now exploring what fish like to eat. Their playfulness persuades. 2001, HarperCollins, 40 pages,
Franny's long, frizzy red hair causes all kinds of problems, but Franny loves it. When a hairdresser piles it on top of her head for a family party, however, a bird takes up residence there, which makes it difficult for her to get undressed, take a shower or sleep. Then Franny is a big hit at the family reunion, even making the TV news. But just when her family begins to like her hair, "a little bird" tells her it's time to cut it. We find out why on the final endpapers, when her bright red hair has become the tree home for the bird's eggs. Oxenbury's textured, colored drawings with just enough context, bring alive the parents, prissy sister, classmates and others, along with the delightful, independent Franny. The actions and reactions of the bird add to the visual fun. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
K-Gr 2-Franny B. Kranny has extremely frizzy hair-and lots of it. Even though other kids make fun of it, even though it gets caught in things, she loves her locks. When the family is invited to a reunion, Franny goes to the hairdresser, who piles her tresses on top of her head. A bird finds its way into Franny's do and stays there, much to the child's delight and the family's chagrin, but the little redhead becomes the hit of the party. The people in this story are all a bit quirky. Mom has a broad blond streak in her black hair. Dad's reading glasses give him a perennially perplexed look. Oxenbury's illustrations are lively and fun, but the story is slight and totally predictable.-Ann Cook, formerly at Winter Park Public Library, FL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Lerner and Goldhor are so agenda-driventheir message to Be Your Own Person! feels like it's being nailed to your foreheadthat their story is more like a lecture, despite the peerless Oxenbury's sweet-hearted illustrations. Franny has a great mop of wild red hairher pride and joy. Mother, sister, and father all advise her to get it cutor at least tamedbut she refuses. Comes the day of the family reunion and her mother insists that she get a hair-do, which is essentially piling the hair in a topknot. At first Franny is appalled, but when a bird takes up residence in her hair, she decides it might be all right. As in several other recent stories about tending to unexpected tenants, (The Singing Hat, p. 187; Albert, p. 263), Franny accommodates the bird by bathing instead of showering, sleeping upright, and doing deep-knee bends to take off her shoes. She is the hit of the reunion (bringing happiness to the dour and the halt in another of Lerner and Goldhor's ham-handed lessons)but decides the next day to get her hair cut. Why? "A little birdie told me to," she chirrups as she hands the clippings to the bird to build a nest. This force-feeding of Franny's nonconformity is enough to make rebellious youngsters want to toe the line, if this is what being a maverick means. (Picture book. 4-7)