Clifton, Lutricia. Freaky Fast Frankie Joe. New York: Holiday House, 2012. Print.
Audience: Ages 8-12, Grade 3-6
Summary: Frankie Joe Huckaby lives with his mother in Texas, until her cheating ways catch up with her and she ends up in jail. Suddenly Frankie has to go live in Illinois with his mostly absent father, an unknown stepmother, and four sneaky half-brothers. Determined to get back to his trailer park home, he starts a delivery service with his old bike and some local clients to try and save money for the long trip. But as he starts to become part of the rural community and realizes that maybe his mother isn’t what he thought, he is faced with the challenge of figuring out where he really belongs.
Strengths: The characters in this book are unforgettable and well drawn. The kids are very believable, especially the “villain” in Frankie’s oldest brother. The members of the community are quirky but they never cross over to silly. The story contains a lot of situations that kids could identify with – divorce, siblings, working, and disappointment.
Weaknesses: Some parents could have problems with kids reading about Frankie’s mother – who is neglectful and ends up in jail. Frankie is allowed to skip school and has no supervision when he is in her care. Also, there are a few questionable choices in what pop culture is included that could date the story.
Uses: This book would be excellent for discussing literary structure since it has a strong problem/solution arc (CCSS ELA: RL.5 Grades 2-5). Themes in the book include dealing with divorce, siblings, and disappointment (CCSS ELA: RL.2 Grades K-6). The characters are well written in this story and would be good ones for a character study (CCSS ELA:RL.3 Grades K-6). This book is perfectly suited to put in the hands of reluctant readers, especially boys.
· The Great Gilly Hopkins - Katherine Paterson (the Newbery honor award book about a girl in foster care)
· The Pinballs – Betsy Byars (three foster children who’ve been taken in by the same family)
· Joey Pigza- Jack Gantos (series about a boy with ADHD, similar main character)
· Three Times Lucky – Sheila Turnage (mystery story with a similar small town setting)
IRA Children’s Choice Award
Texas Bluebonnet Award
SC Children’s Book Award
Nebraska Golden Sower Award
Other: Starred review in Kirkus
Resources for Librarians & Teachers:
Educator’s Guide: http://www.holidayhouse.com/docs/Freaky_Fast_Frankie_Joe.pdf