Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Fleabrain Loves Franny"

Joanne Rocklin's books include One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street, which won the California Book Award, and The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, which won the Golden Kite Award and was named to Florida’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award master list.

Rocklin applied the Page 69 Test to her latest middle grade novel, Fleabrain Loves Franny, and reported the following:
My novel takes place in the 1950’s in Pittsburgh, during the worst polio epidemics of that era. Franny, the main character contracts the disease and can no longer walk. During her hospital stay she is introduced to the recently published Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and falls in love with the book, and, especially, the spider, Charlotte. She longs for a Charlotte of her own. Her wish is granted in the form of the brilliant and hilarious Fleabrain, her dog’s flea. Fleabrain mentions that he's read Kafka's Metamorphosis, a book on her parents' bookshelf. Franny seeks out the book, discovering that other readers have loved the story, writing comments such as "Kafka has the answers" in its margins. On page 69 [inset left; click to enlarge] she asks Professor Gutman, a scientist working in Jonas Salk's lab, to help her translate it.

To many, Kafka's stories reflect the meaningless and unpredictability of life, and certainly Franny's life has taken a Kafkaesque turn. But sometimes literature, and life itself, offer hidden beauties. The professor eventually arrives at an understanding of the story, inspired by Franny's self-acceptance and endurance.

I hope that my story about Fleabrain and Franny illuminates humor and courage in the face of life's bittersweetness, as well as the solace of the imagination.
Visit Joanne Rocklin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue