Perfect Picture Book Friday – PPBF looks at Being Frank, by Donna W. Earnhardt.
In addition to this Friday’s picture book review, I have a special surprise. Drum role, please…
A behind-the-scenes look into the making of this laugh-out-loud, picture book treasure by the author, Donna W. Earnhardt.
We’ve all been there. Somebody asks us for our (honest) opinion on something they made, bought, or are wearing. Or maybe they did something that rouses us enough to comment from that overly honest place inside us (that should be censored prior to speaking). I’m guilty of this. Frankly, during my childhood, my mother sounded like a broken record. “Leslie, Leslie, think before you speak!” Yup, I was one of those clinically honest children–one of those “Frank” people. Which leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice, Being Frank, by my friend, Donna W. Earnhardt. The Interview.
Me: What led up to this book? (Including) Did it begin as a passing idea you thought about for some time before writing or did it come to you in a brilliant flash that had you typing immediately?
Donna: It was a wet “flash” moment! In 2009, I decided to be a NaNoWriMo rebel and only write shorter stories during the challenge. I was in the shower and praying for family and about my writing when the first lines of the book popped in my head. I kept repeating them until I got out of the shower and could write them down… and add more! It flowed pretty quickly. I felt a deep connection with this book.
Me: Is there a Frank in your life that your main character is patterned after? If so, are any of his moments of “frankness” in your book true to life?
Donna: Even though the title bears my dad’s first name, I dedicated it to my “family of Franks” – because we all have a little Frank in us. Even so, my hubby teases me and says that I wrote the book based on him, but the truth is that we all have a tendency to say stuff that perhaps doesn’t need to be said… but don’t always realize it. However, after the book was published, I realized that one line of the story was straight from my hubby. I’ll let you figure out which one it was, but I’ll give you a hint – it has to do with glaring and wrinkles. We laugh about it now, and he says, “Hey… I helped you get a book deal!”
Me: What was your biggest learning experience in the publishing process?
Donna: My editor was Shari Greenspan, and she is wonderful. I learned tons from her! It’s very clear to me now that editors can see the bigger picture of our stories when sometimes we can’t. I learned that changing just a few words can make all the difference in a scene. The beginning of the story and the end stayed the same throughout the revisions – but the middle of the book was revised for the better! We need great beginnings and endings – but the middle of the story is the “meat-and-potatoes”. That’s where the work really happens in storytelling for me.
Throughout the editing process, I learned that I should not try to tell the whole story — I always, always, always need to leave room for the illustrator. Shari and our brilliant illustrator, Andrea Castellani, balanced the “moral” overtones of Being Frank with hilarious illo spreads. Two of my favorite spreads – the one that shows Grandpa drinking water from the hose (their idea!) and the relish “switcheroo” at the end of the story. I did my job as writer, Andrea did his, and Shari did her job by bringing it all together!
Title – Being Frank
Written by- Donna W. Earnhardt
Illustrated by- Andrea Castellani
Published by- Flashlight Press 2012
Suitable for ages – 4 – 8
Topics/theme – honesty, kindness, family, and friendship
Opening – Frank was always frank. “Honesty is the best policy,” he said.
Jacket copy – “Honesty is the best policy.” That’s Frank’s motto. He tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But Frank’s overly frank comments tend to annoy his friends, his teachers, and even his mother — and now Frank is honestly unhappy. He decides to visit his confidant and pal, Grandpa Ernest, who has a history of frankness himself. A few outrageous hats, a spicy jar of relish, and some grandfatherly wisdom help Frank realize that the truth is best serves with more sugar and less pepper.
Amazon Review – Being Frank – Frank follows the motto, “Honesty is the best policy.” He tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Frank never lies to his schoolmates, he always tells the truth to adults, and he’s always honest with police officers. The balancing act of finding tact, that fine line between telling the truth and telling too much truth, is the main theme of this story, and it’s very funny—although not necessarily to his friend Dotti whose freckles remind Frank of the Big Dipper, or to the teacher who hears that her breath smells like onions, or to the principal who is told that his toupee looks like a weasel. No one is quite as impressed with Frank’s honesty as he thinks they should be. He is sweet and straightforward, and, well, very frank, but with everyone annoyed at him, Frank is now honestly unhappy. He decides to visit his confidante and pal, Grandpa Ernest, who has a history of frankness himself. With a few lessons from Grandpa, Frank begins to understand that the truth is important, but so is not being hurtful. With amusing characters and expressive artwork, this story tells the powerful message of finding the good in everything—a lesson that sends compassion and understanding to take the place of rudeness in the complex concept of truth.
Why do I like this book? Seriously, the story and humor in this book are so laugh-out-loud funny and easy to connect with no matter if you are a child or an adult. However, I must strongly recommend something… Whether you check this book out from your library or purchase it, wait to read it until you are outside the library or bookstore so your laughter doesn’t disrupt anyone. (I speak from experience.) Donna Earnhardt has masterfully written a picture book that touches the hearts of both children and adults. And I promise you, should your child ask you to read it for the 50th time, you will gladly say, “ABSOLUTELY! YES! I WOULD LOVE TO!”
One of many things I enjoy about this book is the way Donna Earnhardt set up the story: At first, Frank’s moments of frankness are followed by the corrective actions of those people graced with Frank’s frankness. But when Frank goes too far being frank with his friends, he must seek help and guidance from his grandfather before he finds himself alone. Through examples of how best to be honest without being frank, Grandpa Ernest demonstrates this fine art without hurting anyone’s feelings. Frank is soon given the opportunity to try out his newly acquired skill and… Voila! The reader is blessed with the best possible end to a must-read, must-own picture book. I would also like to add that the illustrations, by award-winning illustrator Andrea Castellani, add a colorful, fresh, and playful level of humor.
Author – Visit Donna W. Earnhardt here.
Illustrator – Visit Andrea Castellani here.
For more picture book reviews and recommendations, visit author Susanna Leonard Hills blog here.
I hope you enjoyed today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review and interview with the very talented author, Donna W. Earnhardt.