FRANK THE SEVEN LEGGED SPIDER

Michaele Razi’s FRANK THE SEVEN LEGGED SPIDER is brilliant. Yes, it’s funny, it’s clever and a little gross, (which, you know, kids) but what I love most about it is the way it raises and never answers a big ole “WHY?”

cover image of Michaele Razi's Frank the Seven Legged Spider

If you don’t know this book, please don’t try to glean its secrets from a YouTube read aloud. It’s gotta be read in person. So, get thyself to your library or bookstore poste-haste.

Now, I don’t want to give away the secret (though it’s killing me not to!). But I do want to talk about that “why?”. Let’s just say something happens to Frank. Something bad and unexpected, and which we the readers can learn the origins of, although Frank never does.

So, quit talking in circles you might be thinking. What’s the big deal? And it’s just this: Razi’s book acknowledges that sometimes bad things happen and sometimes the source of that hurt is surprising. But more than that, we may never get a why – we’re not always owed one and even if we are, tough cookies, baby! Lots of times, it just never comes.

My kiddo spotted the secret on the first read. And it was delightful. Sometimes in life we’re Franks, sometimes we’re what’s on the other side of Frank’s missing leg. Accident? Maliciousness? Circumstantial evidence? No matter – Frank lets it go – the leg, that is – and finds his own mischievous way forward.

I love books like this, so please drop any of your related favorites in the comments. Or tell me what you think about Razi’s book.

RESCUING MRS. BIRDLEY

While I was working on a manuscript that you could call an “absurd romp” for aesthetic shorthand, the founder of Inked Voices, a terrific writing community, pointed me to Aaron Reynolds and Emma Reynold’s RESCUING MRS. BIRDLEY. Count me forever grateful.

TL;DR (not that you’d do that!): When Miranda sees her classroom teacher outside of her “natural habitat,” she’s delighted and determined to use the skills she’s gleaned from watching a beloved nature show to rescue her teacher and return her to school. Of course, her whole premise is wrong. Hijinks ensue.

Being true to yourself and change are not necessarily at odds. But I often feel conflicted about change in PBs. So often, it’s the moralizing piece. So often it happens so, so quickly – like, most change takes a lifetime, amiright? – and I think there is often an impetus in PBs that goes something like this – the MC needs to change to become their best selves—more resilient, more tenacious, kinder, more observant.

That’s all well and good (I think I think), but I deeply believe “don’t change, stay your truest self” is a more radical message. Maybe what I really want to say is just this: Sometimes being wrong, really wrong, is the absolute best right. It’s gleeful, self-assured, joyful, and validating. Young readers sit up and take notice and, in our limited one-house study, the books are a form of ear-candy, like a pop song on repeat. The kids are alright. And, damn it, we love them any which way.