For those who are wondering how I'm coming on reading my sixty library books, I've completed fifteen of them since last Wednesday. Not bad, but still am feeling overwhelmed. Today's book selection is:
Cushman, Karen. 2006. The Loud Silence of Francine Green.
Set in 1949, THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN tells the story of a young girl, Francine Green, and her best friend, Sophie Bowman, as they experience all the challenges that life throws at them while attending 8th grade at All Saints School for Girls. (For those that can remember back that far, think the NBC show American Dreams). The truth is Francine and Sophie couldn't be more different from one another. Sophie is brave, reckless, a bit stupid, always outspoken, an outcast by choice. If she thinks it, 99% of the time she can't help blurting it out. Even if it makes her the favorite torture victim of Sister Basil the Great. She believes in free speech. She believes a bit too much in her right to say and do whatever she wants. Perhaps she's like many teenagers: not wanting to obey the rules and wanting to define themselves by defiance. Francine, on the other hand, is what you would imagine a good girl to be. She is obedient. She is quiet. She doesn't talk back against authority. She is not defiant. She is afraid to speak out. Sometimes that's a bad thing, but in many ways it is a smart thing. Why make trouble for yourself at school each day of the year because you can't restrain yourself from asking the nuns what color underwear they're wearing? Francine loves Sophie because she is everything that she isn't. But this novel is more than a book about Catholic school and 8th grade. It is so much more than that. It is a book about family (again getting vibes from American Dreams). A book about fears. A book about what those fears can lead to in society. You see this book happens at the beginning of the cold war. Russia is the enemy. China is the enemy. To be a communist is to be evil incarnated. The fear of the bomb. The fear of nuclear attack isn't just in the corner of their minds. It is a daily fear. A fear that her young brother cannot cope with psychologically. So even though the war is won, even though "life goes on" nobody feels safe. Everybody worries. The book explores to some extent prejudice, racism, and discrimination. And it definitely explores the idea or has the theme of learning to think for one's self.
Discussion Guide for Loud Silence of Francine Green
Houghton Mifflin's Author Page for Karen Cushman