This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness.
Rocklin has captured the essence of childhood friendship and imagination. With Fleabrain Loves Franny, she pays homage to Charlotte’s Web — while giving her own smarter-than-usual insect a life of his own.
But while her unique and magical friendship with Fleabrain offers the book much of its charm, the real appeal of Fleabrain Loves Franny is seeing Franny overcome the challenges of her illness. After recovering from polio, she is left unable to walk — and many of her friends refuse to see her, fearing she is still contagious (she’s not).
As much as Fleabrain Loves Franny is a whimsical account of a girl’s friendship with a brilliant flea and his magical serums, the book is also an historically accurate look at the polio epidemic and the hard work that would eventually lead to the March of Dimes foundation, the polio vaccine, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Heartbreaking and heartwarming at once, Fleabrain Loves Franny is certainly SOME BOOK! It is in stores now.