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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Franklin in the Dark 25th Anniversary Edition, written by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark. Kids Can Press, 2011. $18.95 ages 3 and up

"Franklin was a turtle. He was afraid of crawling into his small, dark shell. And so, Franklin the turtle dragged his shell behind him."

Can it possibly be 25 years since I first started sharing this lively book with children? My kids were already 10 and 7 in 1986, and we loved it. I still do!

I remember delighting in the story of how it came to be. I was a huge M*A*S*H fan, and thought it was just wonderful that an author could be inspired by Hawkeye and his claustrophobia. How do authors do that?

Franklin was afraid of the dark, just as so many of his young fans were! They had instant rapport with a turtle who was afraid to get inside his own shell...he wasn't sure what he would find there, but he was sure it wouldn't be good. Remember those images of  'creepy things, slippery things, and monsters' that he conjured at bedtime! It was only the beginning of Franklin's lifetime in a series of beloved books. One hundred titles in more than thirty languages later, it remains my favorite one of all.

In the 25th Anniversary Edition Franklin is remarkably unchanged...I wish I could say the same! He is as fresh and green as he was so long ago. Paulette Bourgeois has included a letter and tells readers:

"I thought it was a one-time deal,  but readers wanted more, and so the series began."

She continues:

"Franklin has been glad, sad, mad - and sometimes even bad."

Ah, just like my kids! Children from all over the world love Franklin and his legacy lives on in this newest release.

Some of Brenda Clark's original artwork is shown alongside a letter that she wrote. She describes drawing Franklin:

"...I worked through a number of sketches before settling on Franklin's final design. He looks like a real turtle, but walks on two legs. He can crawl out of his shell and pull it behind him with a rope. Franklin is both imaginary and real."

There is a final section that chronicles Franklin's history from the original title, The Turtle They Called Chicken to the many other stories that resulted from his popularity with a young audience. Merchandising, his role in helping with community celebrations and the many languages in which his story is told are only part of that story, past and present. Who knows what the future holds?

Most of the book is taken up with Franklin's first tale, told with all the charm and vibrant color of the original, and sure to attract another generation of emergent readers who will find comfort and camaraderie in the story of a small turtle who shares their fear.

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