All Russell Hoban’s stories – if we let them – show us ourselves. Many of them with the collaboration of a series of talented artists have been turned into picture books.
We’ve picked three characters to bring you three ages of man – Hoban style.
The stories about Frances tell of the sort of thing most young badgers who have just started school have to cope with: getting to sleep, food fads, a new baby in the family, jealousy. For human beings – young and adult – it can be comforting to see how much you have in common with a loving family of nice furry animals. Here Frances finds out how to deal with `best friends’.
“Let’s play baseball,” said Frances.
“I can’t,” said Albert, “today is my wandering day.”
“Can I wander with you?” asked Frances.
“No,” said Albert, “the things I do on my wandering days aren’t things you can do.”
The next morning when Frances went to Albert’s house, Albert was playing ball with his friend Harold.
“Can I play?” asked Frances.
“She’s not much good,” said Harold to Albert, ” and besides, this is a no-girls game.”
“If any boys come, they can’t play,” said Frances, ” and I think I will be your friend now.”
How can a sister be a friend?” said Gloria.
“You’ll see,” said Frances…
“Will it be just today, or longer?”
“Longer,” said Frances, ” and today we are going to do something big, with no boys… we will have an outing.”
“What good is an outing without boys?” said Albert.
“It is just as good as a ball game without girls,” said Frances, “and maybe a whole lot better.”
“Can’t I be a best friend?” asked Albert.
“I don’t think it is the kind of thing you can do,” said Frances, “and it would ruin my whole day to have to explain it to you.”
The two stories about Tom and Captain Najork are a triumphant celebration of the superiority of small boys over rigid, repressive adults who do not believe in “fooling around.” Quentin Blake’s pictures are the perfect complement.
The Crocodile family has two teenage offspring. “Between his table manners and his electric guitar that boy will destroy the world,” said Mother. Mr and Mrs Crocodile despair of their son, Arthur, until his sister, Emma, brings home a new friend, Alberta Saurian. When the Saurians invite the crocodiles to supper Arthur decides it’s time he learned how to eat.
Best Friends for Frances
Faber, 0 571 09584 4, £2.95
Picture Puffin, 0 14 050.272 6, 60p
How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen
Cape, 0 224 00999 0, £3.50
Picture Puffin, 0 14 050.244 0, 70p
Dinner at Alberta’s
Cape, 0 224 01393 9. £3.50
Young Puffin, 0 14 03.1267 6, 70p