Cover image for Fleabrain loves Franny
Fleabrain loves Franny
Rocklin, Joanne.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Amulet Books, [2014]
Physical Description:
278 pages ; 21 cm
"This middle-grade novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952-53. The protagonist is Franny, a young girl of imagination, curiosity, and stubbornness. While recovering from polio, she begins a correspondence with a flea named Fleabrain"--
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J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area

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This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte's Web . Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog's tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It's a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin's signature wit and thoughtfulness.

Bank Street Children's Books "Best Books of the Year," Fiction Ages 9-12
Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Older Readers

Praise for Fleabrain Loves Franny
"Heartwarming and endlessly funny, Fleabrain Loves Franny will delight readers of all ages. Rocklin's sharp wit and exuberant writing style are refreshing. This book is not to be missed."

"Franny--a compassionate, thoughtful and sympathetic protagonist--is believably erratic in her emotions and reflections on her illness and its effects on her previously carefree life."
-- Publishers Weekly

" Rocklin perfectly captures the era of 1952 and creates a sympathetic, realistic character in Franny, who begins to accept her condition, rejoin her friends and even protest her school's inaccessibility."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"Comedic and philosophical, readers will find multiple levels to enjoy."
-- School Library Journal

Author Notes

Joanne Rocklin is the author of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street , which won the California Book Award, and The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook , which won the Golden Kite Award and was named to Florida's Sunshine State Young Readers Award master list. She lives in Oakland, California.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

If you accept that something as tiny as a polio virus can transform your life, it's an easy step to believing that a well-read flea can be a satisfying friend. Once an active member of her neighborhood pack of children, 10-year-old Franny Katzenback has become an outcast, still deemed contagious by former friends who claim they miss her but won't come near. In the year following the illness that paralyzed Franny's legs, it's pompous Fleabrain, best seen through a magnifying glass, who entertains the lonely, imaginative child, leading her on a series of adventures good works at home and a tour of the world's wonders that ultimately help her regain her place in the world. Convincingly set in Pittsburgh in the early 1950s, when scientists were working on a polio vaccine, and attitudes toward people with disabilities were quite different from today's, Rocklin's story is a conscious homage to Charlotte's Web, many a voracious reader's favorite book. Strong historical fiction for those who are willing to believe.--Isaacs, Kathleen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rocklin pays homage to Charlotte's Web, explores Kafka's The Metamorphosis, and mildly evokes Elise Broach's Masterpiece in this historical fiction/fantasy novel about fifth-grader Franny Katzenback, a victim of the polio epidemic that swept the United States in the early 1950s. Franny-a compassionate, thoughtful and sympathetic protagonist-is believably erratic in her emotions and reflections on her illness and its effects on her previously carefree life. Captivated by E.B. White's just-published book, Franny longs for a Charlotte in her life. Enter Fleabrain, a well-read flea in love with his own intellect. Rocklin's (The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook) rich depiction of 1950s Pittsburgh turns into a touching, imaginative whimsy, eventually becoming a full-fledged fantasy that fits somewhat awkwardly into the otherwise solid world she has constructed. Fleabrain and Franny's fantastic adventures and secret noble deeds distract from Franny's real story, which is satisfying in itself; she has the inner resources and loving support to come to the inspiring resolution without the flea's help. An extensive author's note details the history of polio and the fight to prevent it. Ages 8-12. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-Franny has polio in the summer of 1952. Her Jewish family is trying to do everything they can to support her, but in this Pittsburgh neighborhood Franny is relegated to watching her friends do all the things she wants to do. Along comes the flea known as Fleabrain, who lives on the tail of Franny's dog, Alf. Fleabrain is a genius-inspired by the newly published Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (also a favorite book of Franny's), or perhaps Kafka, or even by surviving periodic attacks of flea powder. He is also a voracious reader. An entertaining cast of characters include older sister Min, errant friend Walter Walter, mean-spirited Nurse Olivegarten, and Franny's lovely grandfather, Zadie. Fleabrain is a thinker and a doer, determined to get Franny going. The inclusion of details of daily life during the time period adds to the realism, but the fantasy adventures make clear that imagination is also at work. Comedic and philosophical, readers will find multiple levels to enjoy. The prejudice against persons with disabilities is startling, but as true to the time as collecting conkers and bottle caps. Fleabrain writes some bad poetry, admires James Howell's Paramoigraphy and the proverbs contained in that 17th century work. Rocklin includes an author's note reflecting on polio and the disablity issues, as well as offering a helpful bibliography and discussion guide, which will lend this title to social studies curricula. Useful and fun.-Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.