cover image The Frazzle Family Finds a Way

The Frazzle Family Finds a Way

Ann Bonwill, illus. by Stephen Gammell. Holiday House, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-2405-4

“The Frazzles were forgetful,” writes Bonwill (I Don’t Want to Be a Pea!). “They forgot their umbrellas when it rained.” Caldecott Medalist Gammell paints the raindrops as gorgeous splatters of grey-blue watercolor paint that speak volumes about the family’s soggy sad-sackness. Enter Aunt Rosemary, a disheveled ball of fire, whose solution is “making notes and calendars and schedules and lists until it seemed that the whole house was covered in paper.” It’s little Annie Frazzle who hits on the true solution: mnemonics as song: “Apples, lettuce, bread, and beets,/ Chicken, carrots, chocolate treats,” sings Annie on a shopping trip. “Milk and cheese and one thing more,/ Don’t leave Grandpa at the store!” Everyone knows or belongs to a family that has at least a little Frazzle forgetfulness in its DNA, but the story’s emphasis feels out of whack, with too much time given to the setup and to blowhard Aunt Rosemary, and not enough to the family’s goofily logical, cobbled-together song-making (which Bonwill nails). Even Gammell’s pictures—with their freewheeling immediacy and radiant, unpredictable palette—can’t quite set the narrative aright. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)