Frindle, by Andrea Clements, was another one of those third grade reading lists books that I bought for the new school year. In the fall, we were attempting to read the books back and forth, one paragraph at a time, but we have since stopped that. Understandably, partnering with my “low-reading” son, we read through this pretty ssslllooooowwlllyyy.
It was okay.
I understand why teachers would assign it for kids, since it both teaches about and encourages exploration of language. It’s short. It’s pretty easy to read. And it ends better than you think it’s going to, until it decides to keep going. The illustrations are nice, if straight-forward.
Nick Allen is one of those oft-misunderstood trouble makers who meets his nemesis in a teacher. He challenges her, and you think he might end up having to take a large slice of humble pie, until he turns the whole thing into a project which blows up bigger than even he can handle. It becomes a cause, and champions come to his reluctant side. After all, all he did was invent a word…
In the end, I found this book less than miraculous. I thought it was written okay. The characters were mildly developed but not tremendously interesting or even likeable. The plot plodded along, even for such a short read. Since it was a book largely about ideas, there was a lack of physical action and humor, which I look for, especially in children’s literature. (Caveat: recall that I read this book pretty slowly, myself.)
It’s also hard to believe this book would be taken seriously in something like a linguistics class, which it repeatedly has. The theme of language fluidity is a main one, but it basically goes unresolved and remains surface-y. I can think of several ways that could have been developed, even for children. Kids and their imagination win, again, to the detriment of adults and their stodgy tradition. The issues are much more nuanced than that, and I can only think that this read is given as a bit of fun for a college student, which opens the door to further exploration.
My eight-year-old son said he liked it, but had a fairly hard time qualifying that for a school report. I didn’t see in him the excitement that he has had for other books, like How to Train Your Dragon, or even Ramona or The Magic Treehouse series.
Keep in mind, it remains highly recommended by most readers and teachers. Do with that what you will. If it sounds interesting to you, it won’t set you back much monetarily or time-wise.
We read Frindle, by Andrew Clements and published by Aladdin Paperbacks in 1996.