Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon

Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator:  Chris Van Dusen 
Fiction  Series
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick, 2016   ISBN: 978-0763690885

Francine Poulet is an exceptional animal control officer. She has handled all kinds of animal related problems with aplomb for many years, following in the footsteps of her father and grandmother, who both served as animal control officers. One day this record-holding, award- winning public servant gets a call from Mrs. Bissinger, who explains that she has a raccoon on her roof. The raccoon in question is apparently most unusual. It shimmers, and calls out Mrs. Bissinger’s first name, Tammy, in a horrible banshee like screech. Mrs. Bissinger wonders if her unwanted guest might in fact be a ghost raccoon.

Being a fearless woman who is dedicated to her job, Francine Poulet sets off for Mrs. Bissinger’s house that very night. Up a ladder she goes, and armed with a net she sits and waits for the raccoon to show up. Francine hears the sound of footfalls and prepares to capture the raccoon, when the animal, shimmering in the darkness, charges at her shrieking her nickname, Franny. For the first time in her working life Francine is terrified and she turns and runs, which is not easy to do when you are on a steep roof. How can the raccoon possibly know that her nickname is Franny? Is it really a ghost?

Francine starts to climb down the ladder, which is when Mrs. Bissinger reminds her that she, Francine Poulet, is an “extraordinary animal control officer.” Francine goes back up and waits, her heart hammering in her chest from fear. Then the raccoon jumps on Francine. Most people would try to get away, but Francine, now in a panic, grabs hold of the shrieking animal, which is solid and therefore not a ghost. Then she and the raccoon, both screaming, fall off the roof and Francine ends up in the hospital with two broken limbs and a very heavy heart. She, the best animal control officer in the county, had been bested by a screaming raccoon. Francine feels that the only thing she can do is to quit her job, and so this is what she does.

People often comment on how amazing fearless heroes are and how they admire them. The truth of the matter is that the real heroes are the ones who are terrified out of their wits but who still get the job done. For a long time Francine Poulet is one of those fearless heroes, and then she discovers fear for the first time and loses her nerve.

The story of Francine Poulet could have ended here, but thankfully for us it does not. Instead, we are given a tale that is thoughtful and funny. The story also serves as a tribute to all those people who face their fears even when their knees are knocking together and when they wish they could run for the hills.