Frank, Lucy 1947–
Frank, Lucy 1947–
PERSONAL: Born March 22, 1947, in New York, NY; daughter of Sidney (a dentist) and Viola (a teacher and photographer; maiden name, Sobol) Kantrowitz; married Peter C. Frank (a film editor), September 30, 1978; children: Michael. Education: Barnard College, A.B., 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening, nature study.
CAREER: Author. Assistant portfolio manager and marketing manager for a major mutual fund company in New York, NY, 1986–96; placement counselor for a temporary employment service in New York, NY, beginning 1996.
MEMBER: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
I Am an Artichoke, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1995.
Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1996.
Oy, Joy!, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 1999.
Just Ask Iris, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2001.
The Annoyance Bureau, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2002.
Lucky Stars, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2005.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Additional young adult novels.
SIDELIGHTS: Lucy Frank is considered by many critics to be a young adult author whose tales of adolescent angst center on intelligent and funny characters going through realistic problems. Frank, whose own son was in early adolescence while she was writing her first published book, 1995's I Am an Artichoke, relied not only on her son's input ("I figured if he laughed we were OK," Frank told Bella Stander in a Publishers Weekly interview), but on her observations of people she saw on the street and on buses in her hometown of Manhattan. "Part of getting the voice right is listening to kids," Frank told Stander, "and part of it is just letting my imagination rip." The draw of writing for young adults is that "the teenage point is where a lot is changing fast and emotions are running high," Frank continued. "Kids have a highly developed sense of the ridiculous or weird, which appeals to me."
In I Am an Artichoke fifteen-year-old Sarah is bored with her dull suburban existence and decides that working in Manhattan as a mother's helper over the summer will be just what she needs. Thus begins her association with the dysfunctional Friedman family. Florence Friedman, a flamboyant magazine writer—"presented with a vividness that has a fingernail-across-the-chalk board effect on the reader," according to Dolores J. Sarafinski in Voice of Youth Advocates—hires Sarah in the hope that she will be able to cure twelve-year-old Emily's anorexia, an agenda that becomes painfully obvious only after Sarah accepts the job. "As the story evolves," noted Elizabeth S. Watson in Horn Book, "it becomes clear that, while Sarah can make a difference, she will not cure Emily or the myriad problems in the family."
"This accomplished first novel sparkles with deliciously wry humor," attested a reviewer in Publishers Weekly about I Am an Artichoke. The novel was also warmly received by other critics who praised the author for consistent characterization, solid pacing, and thoughtful treatment of issues such as self-esteem, family, and friendship—all without losing track of her sense of humor. Susan Dove Lempke concluded her review in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books with the following summation: "Tart, witty narration, strong characterization, and well-paced, realistic plot development make this writer's initial entry into fiction bode well for her future work."
Frank followed up her debut novel with a sequel, Will You Be My Brussels Sprout? Here, Sarah meets and falls in love with Emily's older brother, David, on one of her weekly trips to Manhattan to take cello lessons at the New York Conservatory of Music. Frank's account of first love is "punctuated with humor and witty dialogue and filled with all the angst any teen could ever want," remarked Lauren Peterson in Booklist. Some other reviewers were less enthusiastic, however. Alice Casey Smith complained in the School Library Journal that the conclusion is "disappointingly openended." A critic for Kirkus Reviews concluded that Sarah's inability to break up with David, who pressures her for sex and undermines her musical ambitions, may leave some readers with the feeling that "all the sexual stereotypes they've been taught to recognize and resist have just been reinforced—in spades." Nevertheless, like I Am an Artichoke, Will You Be My Brussels Sprout? garnered praise from Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Judy Sasges as a "well-paced [novel] with fresh characters and an appealing plot."
Frank introduces a new main character with her novel Oy, Joy!, in which fourteen-year-old Joy must adjust to big changes in her life when her Uncle Max, who is recovering from a stroke, moves in with the family and Joy must share a room with her younger brother, Nathan. Joy's mother instructs her to watch over her uncle, a job that Joy does not relish because Uncle Max has to have everything done his way. But, as the uncle and niece get to know one another, a relationship builds. Uncle Max encourages Joy to risk getting closer to a potential boyfriend and she, in turn, urges Max to embrace life again and take some risks. Critics particularly enjoyed Frank's skill with characterization in Oy, Joy!, as well as Joy's humorous narration. Although noting that the story's conclusion wraps up a little too neatly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer appreciated how Frank created a "model for a healthy relationship" between Joy and her new boyfriend, adding, however, that "it's the scenes with Joy and Uncle Max … wherein the true lessons—and laughs—lay." Michael Cart, writing in Booklist, said that Frank "has written a funny, downright joyful story about first love [and] family feelings."
With Just Ask Iris Frank continues to mix laughter and strong characters with a story about big changes in a young girl's life. Iris Pinkowitz is the daughter of a Jewish man and Latina mother. When the family moves to an apartment in the Bronx, her father stays behind for a time, and Iris has to adjust to new surroundings while simultaneously preparing for the jump to junior high school. She is also undergoing some physical changes, and a central plot line in the story involves Iris's quest to earn enough money to buy the bra her mother does not want her to have because she wants Iris to remain a little girl a while longer. Instead of spending her summer learning how to type, as her mother wants, Iris starts a small errand business called "Just Ask Iris." Through this business, she comes to meet and build friendships with the quirky characters in her building, including a makeup saleswoman, who has Iris baby-sit for her, and the Cat Lady, who has over forty cats in her apartment. She also learns about some of the tenants' problems. For example, a paraplegic boy is not able to go to school because the elevator in the building is broken, and the Cat Lady is threatened with eviction by a heartless landlord. Through spunk and resourcefulness, Iris not only earns enough money to buy her bra but also helps out her new friends. "Packed with action, lively dialogue and engaging personalities, this slice of urban life is thoroughly entertaining," asserted a Publishers Weeklyreviewer. Terrie Dorio concluded in the School Library Journal that Frank "has created a likable, resourceful heroine who knows how to take care of business and how to be a good friend."
With her 2002 book, The Annoyance Bureau, Frank adds a touch of mystery, and perhaps fantasy, to her storytelling. As with her earlier titles, this tale again involves a young character coping with a new, uncomfortable situation. Twelve-year-old Lucas has to spend a few days with his father and stepmother in New York City while his mother is on Christmas vacation in the Bahamas. Although he likes his toddler half-brother, Calvin, Lucas is not fond of his nasty stepsister, Phoebe, her equally obnoxious cat, and a thoroughly unpleasant babysitter. Events turn a bit quirky when he runs into a man named Izzy. Izzy is dressed up as Santa Claus and says he is an agent with the Annoyance Bureau, whose responsibility it is to eliminate annoyances with the use of "irkostats." However, he reveals to Lucas that things are not well at the Bureau, which is suffering from conflicts that are resulting in annoyances in themselves. Strangely, Lucas is the only one who seems to be able to see Izzy and his fellow agents. His involvement with the Annoyance Bureau soon escalates into a series of misadventures in what School Library Journal critic Susan Patron called an "original and good-humored novel." Michael Cart, writing in Booklist, similarly declared The Annoyance Bureau a "genial, funny, good-hearted, and hopelessly illogical portrait of contemporary urban life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 1995, p. 999; April 15, 1996, Lauren Peterson, review of Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, p. 1433; January 1, 2000, Michael Cart, review of Oy, Joy!, p. 902; November 15, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Just Ask Iris, p. 570; November 1, 2002, Michael Cart, review of The Annoyance Bureau, p. 491; May 15, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Lucky Stars, p. 1656.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 1995, Susan Dove Lempke, review of I Am an Artichoke, pp. 342-343.
Horn Book, September-October, 1995, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of I Am an Artichoke, p. 609; January-February, 2002, Christine M. Hepperman, review of Just Ask Iris, p. 77.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1996, p. 133; May 15, 2005, review of Lucky Stars, p. 588.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1995, review of I Am an Artichoke, p. 86; July 3, 1995, Bella Stander, "Flying Starts: Five First-Time Children's Authors and Illustrators Talk about Their Spring '95 Debuts," pp. 31-32; April 15, 1996, review of Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, p. 70; December 13, 1999, review of Oy, Joy!, p. 84; November 19, 2001, review of Just Ask Iris, p. 68; November 11, 2002, review of The Annoyance Bureau, p. 64; July 18, 2005, review of Lucky Stars, p. 207.
School Library Journal, March, 1995, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of I Am an Artichoke, p. 222; April, 1996, Alice Casey Smith, review of Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, p. 154; September, 1999, Rosalyn Pierini, review of Oy, Joy!, p. 222; December, 2001, Terrie Dorio, review of Just Ask Iris, p. 133; October, 2002, Susan Patron, review of The Annoyance Bureau, p. 59; July, 2005, Marie Orlando, review of Lucky Stars, p. 102.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1995, Dolores J. Sarafinski, review of I Am an Artichoke, p. 158; October, 1996, Judy Sasges, review of Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, pp. 208-209.
Lucy Frank Web site, http://lucyfrank.com (November 26, 2005).