Top 100 Picture Books #27: Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban
#27 Bread and James for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban (1964)
My mom and I laughed so hard when we read this to my little sister. One of my favorite childhood memories. – Martha Sherod
I loved all the Frances books and can only choose this as favorite by a slight margin. – Pam Coughlan
Another keen observer of the thoughts and feelings of children, the late Russell Hoban fashioned a starring vehicle for his earnest badger girl, who is a very picky eater. All she wants to eat is bread and jam! Her wise mother starts giving her bread and jam for every meal, and finally Frances gets tired of the stuff. But it’s the subtleties that make this book a classic. We find out what other family members are eating, and how. We see schoolmate Albert’s luxurious lunch and wonder when Frances will catch on. Best of all, Frances sings little songs; for example, to her eggs: “I do not like the way you slide,/I do not like your soft inside,/I do not like you lots of ways,/And I could do for many days/Without eggs.” – Kate Coombs
And Frances returns! She’s already popped up on this list once in Bedtime for Frances. Now she’s doing her victory lap with the better known Bread and Jam.
The publisher’s summary of the plot reads, “In this memorable story, Frances decides that bread and jam are all she wants to eat, and her understanding parents grant her wish at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacktime. Can there ever be too much bread and jam?”
As a picky eater myself, I sympathize with Frances’ instincts. Part of the dangers of growing up to become an adult picky eater is that if you want to eat bread and jam and nothing BUT bread and jam, not only do you have the resources to do so, but you could probably even mix it up a bit. Homegrown organic jams from the Farmer’s Market with thick homemade wheat bread. Exotic spiced jams alongside a rustic Italian loaf. Regional jams of Britain with the bread rolls of the southern Yucatan. Maybe you might get sick of one kind of bread and jam, but for the forward thinking picky eater the possibilities are endless.
One thing I have learned from this list is that while I always assumed that all the Frances books were by Lillian Hoban, when we covered Bedtime we learned that Garth Williams did a couple titles as well, back in the day. Close readings of Dear Genius do not explain why this switch occurred. Anyone happen to know?
- This book pops up in odd areas too. For example, would you really want to name your latest album after this title?
I made a concentrated effort to find a recording of someone singing the egg song from this book. Closest I could come was this record. Not too shabby.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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