“Jim Benton is the creator of thousands of original characters appearing in books, magazines, television, online — and has been hailed as ‘the most visible cartoonist in America’ by People Magazine“* — none of which matters to you when you are seven. What does matter is finding a series that is funny, slightly naughty, and just challenging enough to keep you engaged. The Frannie K. Stein series delivers.
My first grader is a Captain Underpants fan, and as she was nearing the end of that series I started to get worried. If you are a first grade girl who reads above grade level your literary choices often involve mermaids, fairies, mermaids who are fairies, fairies who are also mermaids, and glitter. For a child who threw a tantrum when she found out they do not make Star Wars™ underwear for girls, glitter mermaid fairy books do not have a strong appeal.
Searching on-line for books similar to Captain Underpants, I stumbled across parent reviews of the Frannie K. Stein series. On Christmas morning my daughter was thrilled to find a whole new series of books (and yes, my kids are excited to get books for Christmas). She read the first book before the day was over and has flown through them in the weeks since.
The Frannie series has a ATOS/LEXILE/AR level of about 4th grade, and is appropriate for young readers who are ready to read above grade level. Frannie fits with the S.T.E.M. goals of encouraging children (especially girls) to take an interest in science. As Frannie creates and solves problems in her lab, Benton’s humor and fantastic illustrations create a relatable strong female character who will leave young readers wanting more. Just look at her face– can’t you see the wonderful mischief she is plotting? Benton’s illustrations really do carry the stories, and as a bonus they help reluctant older readers stay engaged with the sometimes challenging text.
Don’t worry though– Frannie isn’t (usually) encouraging children to create mayhem. Her social awkwardness and inability to understand the “rules” everyone else seems to follow will appeal to children (and adults) wondering the same thing. Why can’t girls have Star Wars™ underwear? And why does it always have to be pink when they finally do make it?
If your child has the same underwear conundrum, the Frannie K. Stein series will be a perfect fit for your young reader. Thank you, Jim Benton, for creating such a great series!**
* Description from the Frannie K. Stein website
**My daughter told me to ask why there are only seven books, because she wants more. She isn’t impressed with how hard it is to write, illustrate, and publish a book — she wants book eight for Easter. So, you know, get right on that…