Every once in a while my soul aches to read a story where every character, even the most challenging, eventually shows a redeeming quality. In Anybody Here Seen Frenchie?, by Leslie Connor, I found a book with so many loving, quirky, and accepting characters that it makes me want to pack up and move to Maine. These characters are not perfect and they still have struggles, but their ability to work together and to see each other as equally worthy despite their differences makes them stand out as exceptional in our world today. On this first day of the new year, maybe we could all take a step in their direction.
I am so grateful to Harper Collins Children’s Books for the opportunity to review an advance reading copy of Anybody Here Seen Frenchie? before it is released in mid-February. I am also so excited for young readers and their teachers to have a book like this on their shelves. It has so many intricate themes to discuss. While ostensibly a story of a unique friendship, there is so much more to take away from this text. I found myself thinking about the importance of effort in all relationships and the power of communication while reading about Aurora and Frenchie, the protagonists of this novel.
Aurora is loud, exuberant, and quick to share her opinions, even when they get her into trouble. Frenchie is non-verbal and becomes overwhelmed by lots of noise and people (while autism is never explicitly mentioned in the text, it seems likely that Frenchie is on the spectrum). At first glance, they do not appear like the best matched pair, but from the moment they meet, they bring out the best in each other. They are both willing to put in the effort to understand each other, in spite of their different communication styles. The two of them seem destined to be friends forever.
Connor splits the book into chapters in which specific characters are the focus of attention. Aurora tells most of the story and her voice will be highly appealing to young readers. The rest of the chapters are written in third person and Connor’s choice to structure the book in this way makes Aurora’s voice stand out even more. While Frenchie’s chapters are written in third person, they feel like we are seeing situations through Frenchie’s eyes–slightly removed from it all, but also beautifully insightful.
This is truly Aurora and Frenchie’s story, but Connor’s use of multiple secondary characters contributes to the outstanding impact of this novel. While no one else understands Frenchie the way that Aurora does, those closest to him are definitely making an effort and their love shines brightly. In fact, multiple characters who communicate differently end up being some of the heroes of Anybody Here Seen Frenchie?. This sends a powerful message to readers about the importance of opening our minds to all the different forms of communication represented in our diverse communities.
Diversity 6: I like knowing people who are like me and different from me, and I treat each person with respect.
Diversity 9: I feel connected to other people and know how to talk, work and play with others even when we are different or when we disagree.