Today’s recommendation lingered on the shelf for years before finally being read last week! My husband bought this trio of books way back when our son was maybe 5, so at least 3 years ago. I brought them to my son’s attention a couple of times but the timing never seemed quite right. It was almost as though he was actively refusing my offering for no apparent reason, which I’m sure none of you fellow parents or caregivers have EVER experienced!
But for whatever reason, he finally took the bait this time. And wouldn’t you know, the stars aligned, he connected with the character and we have now blown through the series. I guess my advice would be, if you think you have a winner, try to introduce it a couple of times before you rule it out completely. In our case, the third time was a charm.
Okay, so you’re saying, enough already, what’s the book/series/character? It’s the Frankie Pickle collection, written and illustrated by Eric Wight. Wight is a well-known comic book/graphic novel illustrator, which definitely comes through in the particular styling of the Pickle trilogy.
Published in 2010, Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom is the opening book, though as far as I can tell, you don’t have to read them in order to enjoy the series. In Closet of Doom, we open on a scene of young Frankie (he’s likely about 8 years old) on an adventure in the Amazon. Accompanied by his furry best friend Argyle, Frankie traverses the jungle in search of the Idol of the Morning Sun.
We soon learn that the ‘idol’ is in fact a waffle and that we’ve been reading along with Frankie’s imagination for a few pages. Frankie has a very strong imagination so we’ll find ourselves inside his head quite a few times. Once he’s back in the land of reality, we discover that our main character has a bit of a flaw… as in, his bedroom is a complete pit! There are piles of clothes all over the room. There’s a collection of comic books and action figures strewn across the floor. There may or may not be something rotting in a dark corner.
Frankie puts in very minimal effort before declaring to his mom that he doesn’t see much use in cleaning his room. It’s just going to get messy again so what’s the point? His mom, being a wise women, agrees that he can keep his room in whatever shape he wants but there’s a catch; he will be responsible for the consequences, no matter what they might be. Frankie agrees, since really, how bad could the consequences really be?
For a short time, Frankie relishes his life without the responsibilities of housekeeping. But it doesn’t take long for his actions to catch up with him. First, he breaks the leg off his favorite action figure because he didn’t see it underneath so many other things on the floor. Then he misses his chance to watch his favorite show when he can’t get his bedroom door open. His older sister snags the TV and he has to wait his turn. Clean clothes stop appearing in his drawers but he doesn’t mind; he’s decided to add himself to the list of things he doesn’t plan to clean.
Soon, he’s become so smelly that his family members find excuses as to why they can’t be around him. His dog won’t sleep in his room anymore because even he knows something is bound to fall on top of him. Eventually, Frankie’s own imagination clues him into the nasty reality of situation. Imagining that he’s fallen into an ocean of every possession he’s ever owned helps him realize just how bad things have gotten. In the middle of the night, he’s struck by the inspiration to set things right.
He scrubs, organizes, vacuums and even dares to remove a moldy salami and relish from the room. His family is amazed by what he’s done, but he knows that he’ll have to clean himself before the job is completely done. After his bath, the water is as brown as milk mixed with chocolate cereal (gag!) but he’s a new man now. Rather than sully his hard work, he heads over to his best friend’s house to observe the rotting sandwich under a microscope.
In the second book of the series, Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000, there are more life lessons to be learned. This installment opens on a Possum Scout meeting in the Pickle living room. Frankie’s mom is the troop’s leader and she has been helping the scouts complete an activity to earn a knot tying badge. When the other scouts all complete the challenge and advance to the next rank, Frankie is disappointed not to join them. He’ll have to wait to qualify until the next session of scouts starts in several weeks. Unless….
If Frankie manages to win the Pine Run 3000, he’ll be awarded 5 Possum Scout points, allowing him to advance to the next rank without waiting! And it just so happens that the race is taking place the next weekend! Frankie and his dad drive to the hobby show immediately to pick out a model pinewood car. If Frankie is going to pull this off, they need to work together. But there’s just one thing; Frankie wants to do it all himself. He dad is gutted but he does the ‘right’ thing and let’s Frankie attempt to create the car on his own.
Frankie certainly creates…. something. But in his haste to gloat to the other Possum Scouts, he agrees to a race against Carter Hawkins, the most prepared scout anyone has ever known. The boys agree to race down the twisty slide on the playground and we all know that in order for this story to work, Frankie loses, dramatically. His car has been reduced to tiny pieces. He believes all hope is lost.
But little does Frankie know that his dear old dad and his father before him were champions of the Pine Run 3000! With a little hard work, combined with father-son bonding time and a truly inspired design from Frankie, the pair are able to create a new car that has a chance of winning the race. I won’t reveal the big surprise of who triumphs on race day but I will say that there’s much to be learned about how to handle both a win and a defeat with grace.
The final book in the series, Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace, centers around a case of test anxiety that throws Frankie for a loop. When his teacher gives him a second chance to take the quiz on Monday, Frankie is sure that he’ll have plenty of time to study over the weekend. But his family and best friend keep him so busy that he barely has any time to even think about the test, let alone study for it.
When Frankie confronts his parents with this observation, he learns that his loved ones have been helping him to prepare for his test in many real-life ways. For instance, his dad helped him to understand measurements and fractions while baking. His mother gave him a lesson in percentages while on the weekly shopping trip. His sister taught him about multiplication through a pickup football game and even his best friend strengthened his division skills through a Pokemon-type game.
He’s so excited to connect these dots that he can’t wait to take his math test. And at the risk of spoiling the surprise, Frankie aces it! Seeing Frankie make the connection between math and real life with the help of his loved ones adds up (pun intended) to a satisfying ending.
The Frankie Pickle collection is a fun series full of life lessons that kids can grasp without feeling too heavy handed. I’m glad that we gave it another chance and I hope you will, too. Enjoy!