Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom/Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000
written by Eric Wight
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- Related Editorial: Frankie in Earnest
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Frankie Pickle is an adventurer, a superhero, a race car driver, an artist—if his mind can dream it, he can become it. With his dog Argyle as his trusty sidekick, Frankie is ready for anything. In his first adventure, he discovers the perils of a messy room, but will he be able to discover the horrible smell before the whole house has to be demolished? After that, Frankie finds out that he is the only Possum Scout without enough points to move up in rank. Competing in the Pine Run 3000 model car derby will get him those points, but only if he can build a car that can stay together!
“Reality is for grown-ups!” So says Franklin Piccolini—aka Frankie Pickle—on the back of both of Wight’s books, but after reading about Frankie’s adventures, even grown-ups may want to give up on reality and embrace their imaginations. Much of the appeal lies in the cheerful, adventurous, funny, and sassy main character. Frankie is all-boy, but Wight carefully adds enough elements to make the stories appealing for girls as well. Frankie’s mother and older sister are strong female role models—his sister is a sports-crazy jock, a nice touch. His father is a modern man; he cooks and helps with the kids, but he also works on the car and has a run-down hangout of his own where his wife isn’t allowed to clean. The family has just enough tensions to move the story along, but they obviously love each other. That helps keep the tales light and offers a nice groundwork for Frankie’s adventures.
Frankie’s mind takes him to exciting places, whether he’s cleaning his room, racing a model car, watching his baby sister, or even just shopping at the hobby shop. Kids will enjoy his escapades without needing to understand the cultural references, but parents who are reading this to or along with their children will find themselves laughing out loud at allusions to Indiana Jones, Dora the Explorer, Speed Racer, the Justice League, and more. The messages in both books will appeal to parents. The Closet of Doom has a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle type of reverse psychology as Frankie’s mom allows him to not clean his room for as long as he likes (with almost disastrous consequences) and The Pine Run 3000 has a nice message about trying your hardest and doing things the right way. But Wight is careful not to shove those messages down kids’ throats. Instead he allows their meanings to sink in to Frankie, which allows them to sink in to readers.
Wight’s stories are a seamless melding of chapter book fiction and comic art, without the awkwardness of other hybrid titles. The comic chapters blend smoothly into the fiction ones without seeming like they have been added just to cash in on the popularity of comics, making these true graphic novels. Wight’s thick lines give his art a strong, vibrant presence on the page. Plenty of white space makes the text easy to read, but the bold black and white illustrations spill from the comic pages into the space around and between paragraphs, keeping the pages from looking too babyish for chapter book readers. Whether these are shelved in the fiction sections or the graphic novel sections of library collections, they are sure to find readers. Suggest these two to younger brothers and sisters of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans and watch them fly off the shelves.