Franklin is a beloved and classic Canadian children’s character for some, but not for me. This is my guiltily scathing review of what I view to be a very mediocre book. I say guiltily because Canadian Children’s lit, and Canadian lit in general, really doesn’t get that much attention – for the most part – so I feel bad bashing such a prominent book.
I will say that the illustrations, by Brenda Clark, are engaging for children because they are colourful and full of animals, but hold nothing for adults – and I always maintain good children books should resonate with adults as well, being an adult children book lover. There is a nice, strong communal feel as Franklin wanders from character to character that does lend warmth to the text.
The eclectic mix of animals is meant to represent Canada’s multiculturalism. While this mildly resonates with the Canadian reader, this is really the only link to Canada that can be excavated at all. And while this is not a disclaimer that Canadian fiction should contain Canadian content, this book is persistently present in dialogue about Canadian picture books yet it does not hold any tonal “Canadian-ness.”
“Franklin was afraid of small dark places and that was a problem because Franklin was a turtle. He was afraid of crawling into his small dark shell, so Franklin the turtle dragged his shell behind him.”
Throughout the book, Franklin encounters other animals who are all experiencing similar personal problems; a bird who is afraid of heights, a duck who wears water wings, and a lion scared by loud noises.
The concept of being afraid of ones own body is interesting, oscillating and echoing through the adolescent experiences of growth and puberty. Unfortunately, this theme is not exploited more deeply than a passing thought; true to the shallow manner so characteristic of the Franklin series. Each animal is abandoned to their own personal fear and the final image of Franklin in his shell with a night light abdicates circumvention, not solution.
A much better and more profound book that deals with children’s fear of the dark is The Dark by Lemony Snicket – click here for Snicket’s review.