cover image Frances in the Country

Frances in the Country

Liz Garton Scanlon, illus. by Sean Qualls. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-82344-332-1

“Frances is a city kid, but the city/ never seems quite right for Frances.” Her exuberance keeps running up against crowds, close quarters, and rules. “Frances tries to be good,” writes Scanlon (I Want a Boat!) in plainspoken, rhythmic lines, “but it’s hard when/ you’re not supposed to climb or ride or/ race or shout.” Visiting her cousins in the country, “Frances gets to/ go,/ go,/ go”—even the typography seems free, changing size and color with each “go.” In wonderfully loose-limbed acrylic, collage, and pencil art, Qualls (Grandad Mandela) exults in the child’s newfound freedom as she runs down country roads and dances in the rain; in a winning break-the-fourth-wall moment, she flashes the reader a million-watt smile. The trip also presents an opportunity for the family, all portrayed with brown skin, to reboot. Frances gains a new appreciation for city life (she’s eager to show her cousins how “city cats croon/ and city alleys echo/ and city streets beep/ and shine”), while her mother and sisters realize that her enthusiasm energizes them (a Frances-less home and city “sit still”). Absence not only makes the heart grow fonder in this tribute to city, country, and family—it can be a source of fresh perspectives, too. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (June)