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A Bargain for Frances

Module 1 – Introduction to Children’s Literature/Classic Children’s Literature/SLIS 5420


Hoban, Russell. (1970) A Bargain for Frances. (L. Hoban, Illus.). New York: Harper & Row.



On a nice summer morning, Frances prepares to go visit her friend Thelma.  The y will be having a tea party.  Frances’s mother reminds her to be careful playing with Thelma.  Somehow, Thelma always comes out on top when they play and Frances ends up getting hit by a boomerang or falling through the new ice on the pond.

Frances says she’ll be careful and gathers her stuffed animals.  At Thelma’s house, they have a tea party with Thelma’s plastic tea set.  Frances tells Thelma of her plan to buy a blue and white china set and informs her that she has two dollars and seventeen cents saved already.

Thelma convinces Frances that she should buy her plastic set instead, and Frances falls for it, only to find out later that Thelma has used her money to buy the china set for herself.

Frances cleverly devises a way to get her money back, and in the process both Thelma and Frances learn an important lesson about trust, honesty, and sharing being the foundation for friendship.

A Bargain for Frances is a delightful book with a great “lesson” that is taught without being preachy or artificial.  The illustrations are wonderful (the book is predominantly pink and blue, and the illustrations lend themselves perfectly to telling the stories of these friends and their tea sets and what they learn).


    I Was Told There Would Be No Math

“I’ve noticed a veritable plethora of books this year dealing with, of all ungodly subjects, math. It seemed innocent enough in The Puzzling World of Winston Breen. And I was willing to shut my eyes to it in The Lemonade War. But about the time I ran across a fictional work with a plot hinging on algebra (Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman) I began to suspect that I was losing my mind. Math and fiction? Why the world’s gone all higglety-pigglety on us! Up is down! Right is wrong! Math is fun!
But how could I be so short sighted? After all, when a Mr. Mark Dominus decided to make an economic analysis of a book on his blog, what did he pick? Why A Bargain for Frances, of course of course. After a bit of particular captivating probing into the depths of trade and “backsies” (as it were), Dominus sums it up thusly:
Good children’s literature does reward a close reading, and like good adult literature, reveals additional depths on multiple readings. It seems to me that books for small children are more insipid than they used to be, but that could just be fuddy-duddyism, or it could be selection bias: I no longer remember the ones I loved as a child that would now seem insipid precisely because they would now seem insipid.
But the ability to produce good literature at any level is rare, so it is probably just that there only a few great writers in every generation can do it. Russell Hoban was one of the best here.”
Bird, Elizabeth.  (2007, June 13). I Was Told There Would Be No Math. (Weblog). Retrieved from



So…an idea for how to use this book in the classroom or library…I was seeing it as a book about how to be a real friend, and someone else noticed how useful it could be to teach some elementary math.  Hmmm.  I could see several lesson plans here.  My idea would be a story time and then ask the children what they learned from the book and what their thoughts are about the story, and then lead into asking them about what they thought about the “deals” that both Thelma and Frances came up with to get what they wanted.  Frances uses her wits to outsmart Thelma, but comes out nicely as more interested in having a friend than anything else.  Perhaps an activity involving pretend money and some objects would be a fun game and a way to work on math using the book as an example.  I’d first work on the friendship aspect, emphasizing the importance of being real friends and then talk about what they thought of Frances’s “bargain” and then give them a game to play where they have to “bargain” with their friends.  Could be fun and enlightening.


About mary's summer bookshelf

I'm studying to be a librarian at the University of North Texas and loving it. This blog is a class project and the first one I've ever written. The world of children's literature is diverse and rich. This class is opening up many worlds for me to traverse - I am a total YA fan now.

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