Take a journey back to the early 1950s, a simple era with limited technology and gentle ways. But this era also included the horrors of poliomyelitis, a crippling disease that struck down many people before a vaccine was finally discovered. One of its victims is Franny, a young girl whose body was rampaged by the virus which left her unable to walk. Franny spends much of her day by herself. Her friends, fearing she is still contagious, stay far away. With only her sister and parents to keep her company, and an occasional visit from a very demanding nurse, Franny feels alone and isolated. When she reads Charlotte’s Web, Franny longs for the company of her own Charlotte.
Enter Fleabrain, a flea with a genius IQ and several tricks up his tarsus (leg). Fleabrain, feeling very lonely himself, befriends Franny. He strives to bring happiness back into her life by being her friend and confidant. Through the magic of his saliva, he takes Franny on glorious trips around the world, as well as through her neighborhood, where they occasionally intervene to help their neighbors out of sticky situations.
Fleabrain Loves Franny is a multi-level read filled with friendship and adventure. Fleabrain helps Franny through her lonely, frustrating days but discovers in the end he can’t fix everything. Franny has to learn to accept herself the way she is and move forward with her life.
Author Joanne Rocklin weaves a story filled with friendship and adventure and concludes with a powerful message: You are okay just the way you are. She also includes an author’s note with background information about polio, further highlighting the prejudices leveled at people with disabilities. There is also a detailed bibliography for more reading enjoyment. Fleabrain Loves Franny is a great read! It will entertain and delight 9 – 12 year old girls, while empowering them to believe in themselves.
Marcia Berneger is a retired teacher who lives with her husband and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and second grade, as well as special education. She currently teaches Torah school, in addition to her volunteer work in classrooms, libraries, and with various fundraisers. She lives in San Diego.