Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

An Orange For Frankie

An Orange For Frankie

Patricia Polacco
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Penguin, 2004   ISBN: 978-0399243028

It is a cold and snowy morning when Frankie and his brothers tumble out of bed. The 628 freight train is pulling in and the whole family works hard to make a warm and welcome breakfast for the engineer of the train and for the hobos who have been riding in the cars. When Frankie, the youngest member of the family, sees that one of their visitors has nothing on under his coat, he gives the man his favorite sweater, determined that the man cannot go around traveling in a cold train with nothing warm against his skin.

Every year, just before Christmas, Pa drives all the way to Lansing in the buggy to get the nine oranges that are a special treat for each of his nine children. This year he is late coming home and everyone worries about Pa, out in the snowy and blustering winter storm.

The Family do their best to keep the Christmas spirit and hope burning bright amongst them as they wait anxiously for Pa to come home. As it happens Pa does make it home in time and Frankie's Christmas wish is delivered. The generosity that the family has shown to those in need ends up making it possible for them to have Pa home in time for Christmas. Later, when Frankie loses his precious orange, he discovers that his family has a bottomless well of love and generosity to share with him and many others.

Soft and flowing pastel and pencil illustrations beautifully capture the magic that seems to hang in the air over Frankie and his family, a family who have so little and yet who give so much to others who are worse off than they are. This warming Christmas story is made all the more powerful because it is a story from the author's own family history.