It’s 1952 and Franny Katzenback is recovering from polio, undergoing painful physical therapy and wondering if she’ll ever walk again. During her illness she imagined she was being tended by angels, so when she starts to receive letters from a flea who lives on the tip of her dog’s tail, it seems like just another part of the strange, magical time in her life. Fleabrain comforts Franny as she frets over losing her fiends and her formerly active life. But eventually she finds that she must re-engage with the world despite her new circumstances.
Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin portrays the unlikely friendship between a girl and a flea. It captures well the days before the polio vaccine, when those with the disease suffered because of their new disabilities and because they were ostracized by friends, who were afraid to catch it. Franny loves the story of Charlotte’s Web, and Fleabrain becomes her Charlotte, her personal champion.
Franny’s is a story of having courage in the face of adversity, finding friendship in surprising places, and learning when to speak up and act on injustice. Those are all interesting issues to discuss in a book club as well as the historical time frame. I highly recommend Fleabrain Loves Franny for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12.
The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.