From my review for Materials For Youth class, written in April 2011:
As Tunnell and Jacobs say, the “one unfailing earmark of a good novel” is that it “must tell a satisfying story” (128). In this regard, I would say that Frindle is a huge success. I personally loved the book, and based on the long list of awards that it has won, I’d say I’m not alone in that. The book has also been made into a play, which recently appeared at Butler’s Clowes Hall (if I’d read this book sooner, I would have wanted to go!).
In regard to Donelson and Nilson’s (2005) criteria for solid realistic fiction, as quoted by Dr. Moe in this week’s lecture:
* Plot that is “interesting and believable . . . centering around a problem that a young person might really have,” although not “predictable” – While few of us have been cursed with appearances on Good Morning, America or multi-million dollar trust funds, I think that most students can relate to the impulse to challenge authority in some way. Certainly kids don’t always understand teachers’ rules, and every kid will be able to relate to Nick’s desire to cleverly waste class time. We teachers would like to believe that some students will also be able to relate to Nick’s love of learning as well.
* Characters who possess a balance of “good and negative qualities,” yet are neither “too good or too bad to be believed” – While Nick is a troublemaker (though a lovable one) who throws his entire school into chaos, he also maintains a deep respect for Mrs. Grange and genuinely loves learning. And while Mrs. Granger may have “chosen to be the villain” (Clements 99), she clearly cared deeply about her students and taught them well—both about the dictionary and about how to think for themselves.
* Setting should be “described so that the reader can get the intended picture” and contribute to the story – Lincoln Elementary School and the quiet little town of Westfield, New Hampshire, were both drawn with sufficient detail for the reader to envision how the “frindle phenomenon” disrupted their daily routines.
* Theme is “worthwhile” and leaves reader with “something to think about” – Nick learns the important lesson that kids have the power to change the world (and the dictionary, and school lunches). But Nick isn’t the only one with a lesson to teach. As Pamela K. Bomboy says in her review, “A remarkable teacher’s believe in the power of words shines through the entire book” (201). Mrs. Granger imparts a less-common lesson:
“Words are still needed by everyone. Words are used to think with, the write with, to dream with, to hope and pray with. And that is why I love the dictionary. It endures. It works. And as you now know, it also changes and grows.” (100)
That’s a sentiment that this English teacher-turned-librarian really, really loves.