Thanks to Haley Bathiany for this reflection.
Clements, A. (1998). Frindle. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.
"I was teaching a little about the way words work, and about what words really are. I was trying to explain to them how words only mean what we decide they mean. They didn’t believe me when I pointed to a fat dictionary and told them that ordinary people like them and like me had made up all the words in that book—and that new words get made up all the time. Pulling a pen from my pocket I said, “For example, if all of us right here today said we would never call this thing a “pen” again, and that from now on we would call it a . . . frindle." I just made up the word frindle, and they all laughed because it sounded funny. And then I said, "No, really— if enough other people start to use our new word, then in five or ten years, frindle could be a real word in the dictionary.”
She used this conversation to write a story about Nicholas Allen, a boy who likes to cause trouble at school. He gets this same idea from his teacher and decides to run with it, renaming the pen a "frindle". I was so excited to see how she came up with the idea for this story and how it is based on something that not only could really happen but has really happened thousands of times for each word in our language. I also think students would be fascinated by this idea (and may even be making up some new words in the classroom).
There are many different examples of realism in this book. A type of situational realism is the relationship between Nicholas Allen and his teacher, Mrs. Granger. When the author is describing how Nicholas Allen will ask a question to get the teacher off subject in order to avoid being assigned homework it felt all too real. Not only have I experienced students trying to do that in my room, but I have been a student in classes where this happened as well. It is REAL, and kids would love reading about it. The type of social realism occurs throughout the entire story in the way the society and the town acts. The way the media reacts to Nicholas' new word by being published in the newspaper, being on talk shows, and David Letterman are all real things in society today. There is even a point when Nicholas feels like he can't go anywhere because everyone recognizes him. This reminds me of the way celebrities are followed by paparazzi. This story does a fantastic job of capturing realism and convincing the reader of its possibility.
At one point in the story, Mrs. Granger writes a letter to Nicholas and says he will receive it when all of "this" is over. This sets up some foreshadowing. We are not exactly sure what it is foreshadowing or what she means by it being over, but we know that something is going to happen with that letter. When you read the story, you will see that this letter comes back later in a very big way.
Nicholas and Mrs. Granger have a person-against-person conflict which is the main focus of the story. Mrs. Granger is very against the fact that Nicholas is trying to change the English language and she fights it the entire way. I really enjoyed the way this conflict ended up at the end of the book (but I don't want to give anything away).
I can't imagine a student who would not enjoy reading this book. It captures a child's interest because its written in their language, it talks about things that happen in their lives, and it gives them the hope that one person can really make a big difference.
Twitter Tweet: I think Nicholas would have tweeted the following when he was trying to get his new word on the map.
"Everybody make sure to head to the store and pick up a brand new FRINDLE today! #changeisgood"
Big Question: What is something you would change if you knew one person was all it would take?
Do you think it is right or wrong to change a word that has meaning rooted in history? Why or why not?