Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do Your Own Thing: Frankie Stein by Lola Schaefer

Frankie Stein came into the world on a bright, sunny day.

"Our son!" announced the proud parents and they rushed to his side.

"Oh, MY!" said his mother. "He's. . . . CUTE."

"Why doesn't he look like US?" asked his father.

What to do with a child who seems not to belong with his birth family? Like many parents faced with a seeming changeling dropped down into their midst, Frankie's parents, a Frankenstein monster and Bride-of-Frankenstein twosome, resolve to go for nurture over nature and do their best to make Frankie fit in. They color his sunny blond hair purple, cap his first bright little baby tooth green, apply stick-on warts, and put his pudgy baby feet into clunky black boots. They try to teach him to groan and lurch appropriately, and little Frankie attempts, sweetly, to emulate his monstrous mentors. But on him, all the appurtenances of monsterhood just look wrong, and even his best stagger comes off with a bounce.

Instead, Frankie decided on his own kind of scary.

Early one morning Frankie made a grand appearance.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked his parents.

"HORRIFYING!" yelled his mother and father.

Lucky for Frankie, when he re-asserts his sunny, blond self, dressed in store-bought suburbanwear, his parents are appropriately affrighted at his preppiness and declare him the scariest Stein yet. And so he remains--until the birth of his too-cute-for-words little sister, Francie Stein!

Author Lola Schaeffer uses the same plot line here that Michael Rex adopts in his new Runaway Mummy: A Petrifying Parody, reviewed here October 8, but no matter. It's a common thread in books, movies, and television sitcoms, but in Schaeffer's and Atteberry's hands, it's still fun to see the maverick monster kid find a way both to be himself and to meet his parent's expectations. Frankie Stein (Marshall Cavendish, 2009) in its bright new (and cheap) paperback edition is well worth a fun October reading.

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