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Paulette Bourgeois (1951-)


Paulette Bourgeois is known across the United States and her native Canada as the creator of the classic, beloved children's book character Franklin. Franklin is a tiny turtle who suffers from all of the fears and trials of childhood. As he overcomes them, Franklin teaches preschool children lessons about trust, friendship, bravery, family, and many other topics, but he accomplishes this in a different way than most children's book characters do, note critics. As Valerie Hussey, co-owner of the "Franklin" series publisher Kids Can Press, explained to Maclean's interviewer Diane Turbide, "Very often, there's a kind of pedantry in children's books, with adults pointing out the lesson to be learned. . . . We try hard to avoid that. Franklin's parents are there to support him, but he usually resolves it himself. That's a large part of the appeal."

Around the time that her daughter, Natalie, was born, Bourgeois thought that she might like to write children's books, but she could not think of an original idea for one. She finally came up with the idea for Franklin while sitting up late one night with her infant daughter. She was watching an episode of the television series M*A*S*H in which the star, Hawkeye Pierce, declared that he was so claustrophobic that if he were a turtle, he would be afraid to go inside his shell. Bourgeois sat down and in less than a week wrote a story about just such a turtle. This story eventually became her first children's book, Franklin in the Dark.

Franklin the turtle faces some very understandable misgivings when he hears his class is planning a trip to a museum with real dinosaurs, but he finds the adventure is educational and fun when he arrives. (From Franklin's Class Trip, written by Paulette Bourgeois and Sharon Jennings and illustrated by Brenda Clark.)

The "Franklin" series has grown to encompass scores of books, a television series, and a movie, but the theme of facing one's fears remains common. In Franklin and the Thunderstorm, the little turtle wants to stay home with his mother instead of going to visit his friend Fox on a day when there might be a thunderstorm. His mother convinces him to go, and with his friends to support him, he learns that thunderstorms are not so bad after all. "Children will relate to the situation and the gentle humor of the solution," thought a Resource Links contributor. In Franklin Is Lost, Franklin and his friends have fun playing hide-and-seek. The little turtle forgets that he is not allowed to go in the woods, tries to hide there, and cannot find his way back out. "Bourgeois captures . . . well the surprise and fear that accompanies being lost," commented another Resource Links reviewer.

In Franklin's Class Trip, both Franklin and his friend Snail are afraid. Their classmate Beaver tells them that there are real dinosaurs at the museum the class is visiting. Franklin and Snail (who rides around the museum on Franklin's shell) spend the whole morning getting more and more worried about the dinosaurs, but finally, when they make it to the dinosaur room in the afternoon, the two critters realize that the dinosaurs are not alive and stop worrying.

The "Franklin" books also teach social skills like sharing, not being bossy, and cooperating. In Franklin's Secret Club, the turtle creates a club that excludes one of his classmates. The girl, offended, forms her own club that excludes Franklin. Franklin comes to realize that, rather than excluding others, it is better to be friends with everyone. It's another "wonderful, lesson story," from Bourgeois, a reviewer wrote in Resource Links.

Franklin learns another important insight about friendship in Franklin's Valentines. On his way to school on Valentine's Day, he accidentally drops all of his cards for his classmates in a mud puddle. Franklin is worried that his friends will be angry that he does not have valentines for them, and that they will not give him any valentines if they do not receive one in return. However, Franklin's friends are understanding and give him their cards, and the next day, Franklin brings "Friendship Day" cards for everyone.

Another holiday tale, Franklin's Christmas Gift finds the little turtle trying to make a very difficult decision. His class is collecting toys to give to poor children for the holidays. Franklin likes all of his toys and does not want to give any of them up. He finally discovers a broken toy that he would be willing to give away, but then his teacher, Mr. Owl, tells the class that the children who will be receiving these toys might not get any other presents this Christmas. Franklin realizes that his broken truck is not such a good present after all and donates one of his favorite toys instead.

Although she is best known for creating the Franklin character, Bourgeois has also written other books for children. Oma's Quilt offers "a gentle and subtle story about how the love and support of family members can make difficult transitions in life less painful," explained Resource Links reviewer Zoe Johnstone Guha. The beginning of the story finds Emily's grandmother, Oma, moving from her beloved house into a retirement home. At first, Oma hates the change. She wants to be able to cook her own meals, she misses her things, and she thinks that the other residents of the nursing home are "nincompoops." When Emily and her mother go to Oma's house to sort through her things, they realize that the old woman kept many items of clothing with sentimental value over the years. Together, Emily and her mother create a quilt for Oma out of those clothes, Emily and her mother use treasured items to fashion a quilt so Emily's grandmother, newly settled into a retirement home, can reminisce about the past in Bourgeois's warm story of familial love. (From Oma's Quilt, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch.) and being able to snuggle up with the quilt makes the move easier for Oma. The story is "told in simple, appealing language," thought Booklist's Gillian Engberg, and School Library Journal contributor Sheilah Kosco dubbed the book "reassuring."

Bourgeois once commented: "I believe that children's books can give children a key to the world as it is, and as it can be. I try to give my characters—the children—a sense of power in a world where they are so often powerless."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Behind the Story: The People Who Create Our Best Children's Books . . . and How They Do It!, Pembroke (Markham, Canada), 1995.


Booklist, February 1, 1995, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Changes in You and Me: A Book about Puberty, Mostly for Boys, p. 1000A; September 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Sun, p. 108; April 15, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of Fire Fighters and Garbage Collectors, p. 1447; March 1, 1999, Shelley Townsend-Hudson, review of Franklin's Class Trip, p. 1218; July, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Postal Workers and Police Officers, p. 1948; June 1, 2000, Kathy Broderick, review of Franklin Goes to the Hospital, p. 1904; December 15, 2001, Gillian Engberg, review of Oma's Quilt, p. 738.

Canadian Children's Literature, spring, 2000, review of Franklin's Secret Club, Franklin's New Friend, Finders Keepers for Franklin, and Franklin's Class Trip, pp. 32-38; spring-summer, 2002, review of Oma's Quilt, p. 185.

Canadian Living, May, 2001, Paulette Bourgeois, "Franklin's Two Moms," pp. 121-122.

Canadian Materials, January, 1988, review of The Amazing Apple Book, p. 22; March, 1988, review of Big Sarah's Little Boots, p. 56; May, 1988, review of On Your Mark, Get Set: All about the Olympics Then and Now, pp. 107-108; September, 1989, review of Hurry Up, Franklin, p. 216; March, 1990, review of Grandma's Secret, p. 62; November, 1990, review of Too Many Chickens, pp. 264-265; May, 1991, review of Franklin Fibs, p. 170; September, 1991, review of Fire Fighters and Garbage Collectors, pp. 226-227; September, 1992, review of Franklin Is Lost, p. 207; November, 1992, review of Police Officers, p. 308; January, 1993, review of Postal Workers, p. 20; March-April, 1994, review of Franklin Is Bossy, p. 56.

Horn Book, May-June, 1990, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of Grandma's Secret, p. 318.

Language Arts, September, 1992, Miriam Martinez and Marcia F. Nash, review of Too Many Chickens!, p. 372.

Maclean's, December 11, 1995, Diane Turbide, "A Million Dollar Turtle," pp. 50-51.

New York Times Book Review, March 12, 1995, Betsy Hearne, review of Changes in You and Me: A Book about Puberty, Mostly for Girls, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, April 5, 1991, review of Too Many Chickens!, p. 144; June 5, 2000, review of Franklin's Pet Problem, p. 96; April 2, 2001, review of Franklin's School Treasury, p. 66; April 28, 2003, review of Franklin's Family Treasury, p. 73.

Quill and Quire, May, 1991, Peter Carver, "Paulette Bourgeois Branches Out," pp. 21, 24; June, 1991, review of Fire Fighters and Garbage Collectors, p. 24; July, 1991, review of The Amazing Potato Book, pp. 52-53; February, 1992, review of Franklin Is Lost, p. 32; August, 1992, review of Postal Workers, p. 28; July, 1993, review of Franklin Is Bossy, p. 56; December, 1994, review of Changes in You and Me: A Book about Puberty, Mostly for Boys, p. 34; September, 2001, review of Oma's Quilt, p. 52.

Resource Links, June, 1996, review of Franklin Has a Sleepover, p. 208; February, 1997, review of Franklin's School Play, p. 109; June, 1997, review of Franklin Rides a Bike, pp. 204-205; December, 1998, review of Franklin's Secret Club, p. 2; June, 1999, review of Franklin's Class Trip, p. 2; October, 1999, review of Franklin Is Lost, p. 2; February, 2000, review of Franklin's Classic Treasury, p. 2; April, 2000, review of Franklin Goes to the Hospital and Franklin and the Thunderstorm, p. 2; December, 2000, review of Franklin's Baby Sister, p. 2; April, 2001, Judy Cottrell, review of Franklin's Pet Problem, p. 3; December, 2001, Zoe Johnstone Guha, review of Oma's Quilt, pp. 4-5; April, 2002, Elaine Rospad, review of Franklin Says I Love You, pp. 2-3.

School Library Journal, November, 1989, Gail C. Ross, review of Big Sarah's Little Boots, p. 74; July, 1990, Jane Gardner Connor, review of Grandma's Secret, p. 56, and Barbara B. Murphy, review of The Amazing Apple Book, pp. 81-82; March, 1991, Susan L. Rogers, review of The Amazing Dirt Book and The Amazing Paper Book, pp. 198-199; June, 1991, Lee Bock, review of Too Many Chickens!, p. 72; February, 1992, Carolyn Kenks, review of The Amazing Potato Book, p. 92; March, 1995, Virginia E. Jeschelnig, review of Changes in You and Me: A Book about Puberty, Mostly for Boys and Changes in You and Me: A Book about Puberty, Mostly for Girls, p. 208; May, 1997, Elisabeth Palmer Abarbanel, review of Franklin's Bad Day, p. 93, and John Peters, review of The Moon, p. 200; December, 1997, Martha Topol, review of Franklin's New Friend and Franklin Rides a Bike, p. 87; June, 1998, Stephani Hutchinson, review of Garbage Collectors and Firefighters, pp. 127-128; July, 1998, Sally R. Dow, review of Franklin and the Thunderstorm, pp. 64-65; May, 1999, Dina Sherman, review of Franklin's Class Trip, p. 86; July, 1999, Paul Kelsey, review of Postal Workers, p. 84; November, 2001, Sheilah Kosco, review of Oma's Quilt, pp. 111-112.*

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalPaulette Bourgeois (1951-) Biography - Adaptations, Sidelights - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings