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The Loud Silence of Francine Green

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The Loud Silence of Francine Green

Francine Green lives down the street from a Hollywood film studio and wishes she were a movie star. In reality, she's just a thirteen-year-old. Francine doesn’t speak up much, and who can blame her?...
Francine Green lives down the street from a Hollywood film studio and wishes she were a movie star. In reality, she's just a thirteen-year-old. Francine doesn’t speak up much, and who can blame her?...
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    7 - 12

  • Francine Green lives down the street from a Hollywood film studio and wishes she were a movie star. In reality, she's just a thirteen-year-old. Francine doesn’t speak up much, and who can blame her? Her parents aren't interested in her opinions, the nuns at school punish girls who ask too many questions, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities is blacklisting people who express unpopular ideas.

    There's safety in silence.

    But when outspoken, passionate Sophie Bowman transfers into Francine's class at school, Francine finds herself thinking about things that never concerned her before—free speech, the atom bomb, the existence of God, the way people treat each other. Eventually, Francine discovers that she not only has something to say, she is absolutely determined to say it.

    “Serious issues are balanced by Francine’s self-deprecating sense of humor…to produce a wonderful snapshot of the times.”—VOYA

  • From the book

    August 1949

    Books and Beanies and Montgomery Clift

    "Holy cow!" I said when Sophie Bowman told me she'd be joining me at All Saints School for Girls this year. "Why now, in the eighth grade?"

    "Because I got thrown out of public school." Sophie and I were in the room I shared with my sister, Dolores. Dolores was on a date with her steady, Wally, so Sophie lay on Dolores's bed, her legs in the air, twirling the navy blue beanie from my school uniform on her foot. "It was either Catholic school or boarding school. No one else would have me. But Sister Basil thinks my soul can still be saved. From what I can tell, she's nuts about saving souls."

    I sat up cross-legged on my bed. "Why?" I asked her.

    "That's what she learned in nun school, I suppose."

    "No," I said. "Why did you get kicked out of school?"

    "Oh, that. For writing 'There is no free speech here' on the gym floor. In paint. Red paint."

    She grinned at me as though that was the most wonderful thing in the world. I didn't grin back. "Why on earth would you do that?"

    "Because the principal banned radios in the lunchroom."

    "Radios? You ruined the gym floor because of radios?"

    She waved her beanied foot about. "Not just radios, dopey. It was a matter of free speech. Standing up for what you believe in. And fighting fascism."
    Fascism? Wasn't that about Adolf Hitler? Did she mean Nazis kept her from playing the radio in the lunchroom?

    "Harry says that he may agree with the sentiment, but the expression left a lot to be desired," she continued, stretching her long, summer-brown legs. I sighed and looked at my legs. They were pink and freckled like the rest of me.

    "Who's Harry?" I asked her.

    "My father. My mother went to Catholic school and he thinks she was nearly perfect, so off I go." I knew from Hettie Morris across the street, who knew Laurel Greenson, whose aunt was Mrs. O'Brien, who lived next door to the Bowmans, that Sophie's mother had died when she was born. "He wants me to be more like her and learn to express myself with patience, self-control, and moderation."

    Sophie would be going to the right school. At All Saints we had patience, self-control, and moderation to spare and not a drop of free speech. I myself was so patient, moderate, and self-controlled that sometimes I felt invisible, and I liked it that way. Let others get noticed and into trouble. Let Sophie get into trouble. It seemed a sure bet that she would.

    Sophie and I weren't friends or anything, although she lived only a block down from me on Palm View Drive, in a pink stucco bungalow a lot like the one I lived in. We had nodded to each other over the years, and even played Red Light, Green Light together with the other neighborhood kids on hot summer nights. Now she had come over after dinner to learn more about All Saints, recognizing from my uniform that I was a student there. I couldn't imagine Sophie at All Saints, couldn't see her standing patiently in line in a blue sweater and plaid skirt--not the long-legged Sophie Bowman of the thick blond hair, outspoken opinions, and that lovely name, Sophie Bowman. Long mournful O sounds, so moody and romantic. Me? Francine Green, with Es like eeek and screech and beanie. Holy cow.

    "I seriously hate beanies," Sophie said. "They make you look so drippy. Why do we have to wear uniforms like we're in jail?"

    "It's not the same at all," I said. "Jails have much better uniforms. Black and white stripes, you know, are very fashionable this year."

    "They are?"

    "I was kidding, Sophie."

    "Oh." Sophie wagged her beanied foot at me. "Maybe," she said, "we should...

  • AudioFile Magazine Francine is in eighth grade at a rigid Catholic school from August 1949 through June 1950. Sophia, a transfer student from public school, becomes her best friend. Sophia is full of opinions, and not afraid to voice them. Good historical fiction breathes life into an era by peopling it with realistic characters living on history's stage. Cushman is a master at creating introspective female characters that middle school girls can admire. In Anaka Shockley's portrayal of Francine, the listener hears her voice grow and strengthen as the shadow of McCarthyism grows darker. Shockley uses cadence and slang to place us firmly in a specific historical period while depicting young people whom today's youth can recognize. N.E.M. (c) AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine
  • Booklist, Starred "Cushman's latest historical novel captures the terrors and confusions of the McCarthy era. . . . An integrated, affecting novel about friendship and growing up. . . . Questions about patriotism, activism, and freedom bring the novel right into today's most polarizing controversies."
  • School Library Journal, Starred "Cushman creates another introspective female character who is planted firmly in her time and who grows in courage, self-awareness, and conviction."
  • Kirkus Reviews, Starred "The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage."
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Karen Cushman
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