Lucy Frank (1947–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1947, in New York, NY; Education: Barnard College, A.B., 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening, nature study, music.
Agent—c/o Curtis Brown, Ltd., 10 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003.
Author of books for young adults. Assistant portfolio manager and marketing manager for a major mutual fund company, New York, NY, 1986–96; placement counselor for temporary employment service, New York, NY, beginning 1996; worked variously as a vitamin pill shipping clerk, an editorial assistant, a children's clothing designer, a low-income housing program administrator, a placement counselor, and an administrator for a neurobiology lab.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild, Authors League of America.
Children's Literature Choice listee, 1995, and New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, 1996, both for I Am an Artichoke; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, 2001, for Just Ask Iris.
I Am an Artichoke, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1995. Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1996.
Oy, Joy!, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 1999.
Just Ask Iris, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
The Annoyance Bureau, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.
Lucky Stars, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2005.
Lucy Frank is a young-adult author whose tales of adolescent angst center on intelligent and funny characters going through realistic problems. Frank's own son was struggling through early adolescence while she was writing her first published book, I Am an Artichoke, and she relied on her son's input; "I figured if he laughed we were OK," Frank told Bella Stander in a Publishers Weekly interview. Frank also drew 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," the author 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 lots more exciting. Thus begins her association with the dysfunctional Friedman family. Florence Friedman, a flamboyant magazine writer who is "presented with a vividness that has a fingernail-across-the-chalk board effect," according to Dolores J. Sarafinski in Voice of Youth Advocates, hires Sarah in the hope that the girl will be able to cure twelve-year-old daughter Emily's anorexia. Florence's agenda becomes painfully obvious only after Sarah accepts the job; "as the story evolves," explained 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."
Frank's "accomplished first novel sparkles with deliciously wry humor," enthused a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, reviewing I Am an Artichoke. The novel was warmly received by other critics as well, and Frank was praised for consistent characterization, solid pacing, and thoughtful treatment of issues such as self-esteem, family, and friendship, as well as for her sense of humor. Susan Dove Lempke concluded her review in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books by writing: "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."
In Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, the sequel to I Am an Artichoke, 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. Other reviewers were less enthusiastic, however, complaining, like Alice Casey Smith in School Library Journal, that Frank's conclusion is "disappointingly open-ended." Although reviewers generally commended the author's treatment of sex as responsible and age-appropriate, 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 as a "well-paced [novel] with fresh characters and an appealing plot," from Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Judy Sasges.
Oy, Joy! introduces readers to freshman Joy, Joy's younger brother Nathan, and their mother's Uncle Max, who moves in with Joy's family while he is recovering from a stroke. Joy wants to have a boyfriend, but she isn't at all enthusiastic about her uncle's desire to help her find one. "It's the scenes with Joy and Uncle Max cooking, playing cards, or taking walks wherein the true lessons … and laughs … lay," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Michael Cart, writing in Booklist, called the novel "a funny, downright joyful story about first love, family feelings, and … cross-generational friendship."
In Just Ask Iris Iris Pinkowitz needs a bra. She is twelve years old and boys are beginning to notice her, but her mother resists buying Iris a bra because she does not want to acknowledge that her daughter is growing up. Iris, who is half-Jewish and half-Latina, decides to take matters into her own hands and, to earn the money for her first brassiere, begins a business called "Just Ask Iris." While doing odd jobs for the neighbors in her new building, she develops a friendship with Willy, who is confined to a wheel-chair and is unable to leave the building until the elevator is fixed, and the Cat Lady, a woman who lives on the top floor and has more cats than the health code allows. Willy and Iris help keep the Cat Lady from being evicted, and eventually, Iris takes on the building manager herself, making it her quest to get the old elevator fixed. She also manages, in the process, to raise enough money to buy the coveted undergarment. "This slice of urban life is thoroughly entertaining," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, while Paula Rohrlick, writing in Kliatt, noted that "Iris is a spunky and believable heroine, and the multiethnic characters are skillfully portrayed." Terrie Dorio commented in School Library Journal that "Frank tells this appealing contemporary story with a light touch and plenty of humorous dialogue."
The Annoyance Bureau is a holiday story with a twist; twelve-year-old Lucas is forced to spend his Christmas in New York with his father and step-family, including his obnoxious stepsister. Although Lucas is geared up to have a miserable time, he soon discovers that he can see people walking around New York that other people do not seem to notice. One of them is Izzy Gribitz, a man dressed like Santa Claus and stationed outside a bookstore who reveals to Lucas that he is actually a member of the Annoyance Bureau, a secret organization developed to control all the world's annoyances. Rohrlick, again writing in Kliatt, called the novel "a fun romp, with an underlying message about standing up for oneself and speaking out." Michael Cart, in Booklist, deemed The Annoyance Bureau a "genial, funny, good-hearted, and hopelessly illogical portrait of contemporary urban life."
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Returning from the fantastic and illogical to a contemporary fiction title, Frank penned Lucky Stars, a tale of three middle-school outcasts who become friends due to their shared love of music. Kira is mortified to discover that her father and step-siblings have been making money by singing in the city subway. Although Kira has a beautiful voice, she refuses to sing with them because she finds it humiliating. Jake has a stutter, and although he is very smart, he skips class so he will not be embarrassed by his speech. Eugene is a class clown and Jake's best friend. The three teens are first brought together by a stray duck stranded in a snowstorm, and later through their love of music. "Readers will thank their lucky stars when they meet this trio," commented a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Marie Orlando, writing in School Library Journal, noted that "deft characterization, an authentic sense of place, and a good mix of serious and funny scenes make this a better-than-average novel." A Publishers Weekly critic concluded of Lucky Stars that "Readers can't help but applaud."
In an interview on her home page, Frank explained that her books "aren't about me. They're about what's on my mind. For example, feeling fat even when you're not, feeling as if there is almost nothing in your life that you can control, and if you could only lose weight, or find a boyfriend, it would change things…. And I write about all the infuriatingly stupid, irritating, wrong things, and life feeling so hard and annoying that a kid might want to jump out of his world into an imaginary one with magical devices. And of course I love writing about love."
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; September 15, 2000, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Oy, Joy!, p. 234; November 15, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of Just Ask Iris, p. 570; November 1, 2002, Michael Cart, review of The Annoyance Bureau, p. 491.
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, 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, review of Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, p. 133; September 15, 2002, review of The Annoyance Bureau, p. 1389; May 15, 2005, review of Lucky Stars, p. 588.
Kliatt, November, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of The Annoyance Bureau, p. 9; May, 2003, Paula Rohrlick, review of Just Ask Iris, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1995, review of I Am an Artichoke, p. 86; July 3, 1995, Bella Stander, "Flying Starts," pp. 31-32; April 15, 1996, p. 70; November 18, 1996, review of I Am an Artichoke, p. 78; December 13, 1999, review of Oy, Joy!, p. 84; July 23, 2001, review of Oy, Joy!, p. 79; 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, p. 222; April, 1996, Alice Casey Smith, review of Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, p. 154; 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 Sages, review of Will You Be My Brussels Sprout?, pp. 208-209; June, 2005, Amanda MacGregor, review of Lucky Stars, p. 129.
Lucy Frank Home Page, http://www.lucyfrank.com (November 30, 2005).
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