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Center for Children’s Literature

"The Loud Silence of Francine Green" by Karen Cushman

The Loud Silence of Francine Green

Newbery winning author Cushman, known for historical fiction, has published her most contemporary book to date. To adult readers of a certain age, her depiction of 1949-1950 will seem spot on: relief that the war is over, fear of Communism and the bomb, and strictly defined roles for males and females. The author’s portrait of Sister Basil the Great, rigid, fearsome teacher at All Saints School for Girls, makes readers aware of her self-satisfaction, complacency, lack of humor and inability to compromise. Francine tells the story in her own voice, clear-eyed, and fresh. Ironic commentary and fantasy scenes of “Dinner at the Greens” are very funny, as are the depictions of her airhead sister, Dolores, and her endearing little brother Artie. Under the influence of her outspoken friend, Sophie, she loses a sense of comfort, begins to question the status quo, and finally finds the courage to make her opinions known—unpopular as they may make her, and uncomfortable as that feels. An afterward explains the climate of fear, and the anti-Communist campaign of Senator Joe McCarthy. It might have been more effective for that information to have been interspersed with the action: a Russian émigré family is harassed, an actor is blacklisted and commits suicide, and Sophie’s father and she move away when he loses his job as a scriptwriter. Modern children may not identify with Francine’s concerns, but all readers can relate to her wish: “I stomped in puddles all the way home. I was not happy (splash!). I wanted the world to be clean and neat, black and white. I wanted the government to be right and fair, to keep us safe and out of war. I wanted communists to go back to Russia and get rid of their bombs. I wanted Americans to get rid of our bombs (splash!). I wanted the world to be like I thought it was when I was four or five. It was much too scary now that I was thirteen (splash! splash!).”

Author: Karen Cushman

Publisher: New York: Clarion [Houghton Mifflin] 2006

Reviewed by: Holly Sanhuber, Muskego Public Library

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