Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman

Hello, Gayle Forman! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for stopping by to share and celebrate Laura DiSiena’s cover design and Angeles Ruiz’s cover illustration for Frankie & Bug. My eyes went immediately to their expressions and then to the popsicles and then to the red notebook and then… 

Are you up for taking us on a tour of the cover?

Gayle Forman: Oh, my goodness, yes. It’s such a wonderful cover, so evocative of Venice, CA and summers and the late 1980s that when I saw it, it just hit Gen-X-er, me with this wave of nostalgia. The front of the jacket is Frankie and Bug, sitting on the stoop of a local neighborhood store in Venice, eating popsicles at the end of the evening. Frankie has his Dodgers cap down low on his face—we spent a lot of time talking about his posture—and there is a seriousness to between him and Bug but also a warmth. The scene is from the end of the book—one of my favorite moments—where both kids come to terms of what they could and could not change. One thing they absolutely did change was each other, by showing up for each other. Which also happens to be the major theme of the book.

As for the popsicles—I’m so glad you mentioned those! We had so many debates about what to call them. I remembered them as “Bottle Rockets,” but only a handful of people on the West Coast were familiar with that term. They’re also known as Rocket Pops and Bomb Pops—and there was actually a legal feud about the name! In any case after much research—i.e. asking Twitter—we settled on Bomb Pops.

Thank you for that wonderful tour. I almost called them Rocket Pops. I changed it to popsicles at the last moment. Here is an ornament from my Christmas tree (photo taken in December): 

Scenario: Imagine you’re in a school library celebrating books with 250 5th graders in Seattle, Washington. Their teacher-librarian asks you to booktalk Frankie & Bug.

Gayle Forman: What does allyship mean? How can we talk respectfully about what makes us different, and what makes us similar? How do we show up for each other, stand up for each other, in a world that can be neither fair nor just? How much has the world changed and how much has it stayed the same, and what can kids do to change it for the better?

Those are some of the things that Bug and Frankie explore over the course of the tumultuous summer of 1987 after Frankie is sent to Venice Beach to spend the summer with his uncle Phillip, who is Bug’s upstairs neighbor and her Mama’s best friend. When Frankie first arrives, Bug believes he’s been sent out from Ohio to keep her company now that her older brother Danny has decided he needs “space” to “spread his wings” and does not want to take her to the beach as he has in previous summers. But Frankie shows no interest in going to the beach—he doesn’t even pack a bathing suit! All he wants to do is catch the Midnight Marauder, a serial killer that’s who’s terrorizing the area. When Bug and Frankie join forces to investigate a possible suspect—the Hermit who lives in the creepy house across the street —summer starts to look up as the two forge a friendship. But when Phillip gets beaten up, Frankie and Bug shift their investigation closer to home and learn some big truths about the world, about themselves, what it means to stand up for a friend, and that life might not be fair, but it’s up to all of us to make it more just.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Venice Beach is one of those places where it always feels like summer. There are surfers and bohemians and hippies and body builders and tourists, all milling along a concrete boardwalk set back from a wide expanse of sand that leads to the beckoning and cold (even in summer) Pacific Ocean. Now that’s Venice Beach. Venice, on the other hand, is the neighborhood that spreads out from the beach, an area that includes canals—that’s where Venice gets its name—and so-called walk streets, these tiny sandy pedestrian lanes that are sort of tucked into the area. I grew up in L.A. and had been to Venice dozens of times before I discovered the canals or the walking streets. I love that Venice still has secrets to reveal. It’s one of the reasons I set the book there, and though it’s my 10th novel, it’s my first one set in my hometown.

Kristin Gilson is the reason I am publishing this book. I started writing Frankie & Bug eight years ago but kept putting it aside. Meanwhile, Kristin and I had worked together on If I Stay and my other YA books and as we became friends, I found that she, like me, spent a lot of time thinking about allyship in its various forms (her because she has a trans son—she’s cis— and me because I have a Black daughter—I’m white). When she landed at Aladdin, she was looking for middle-grade books with nonbinary characters and I knew this book I had been working on had finally found its home. She immediately understood that at its heart, this was a story about two kids, accepting one another almost immediately, even as they stumbled to figure out how best to show up for one another. This might be a story set in the 1980s but we both understood it might provide a road map for today’s kids, and adults.

Story is how we make sense of the world as it is and how we move closer to the world as we want it to be. Story is how we gauge how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. Story is how we create empathy, stepping into another person’s experience and seeing the differences aren’t so scary and the similarities usually outnumber them.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about the Bomb Pops. Oh, wait you already did!

Thank you, Gayle!

Thank YOU, Mr. Schu!

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and Elle in the US. Gayle Forman’s novel, If I Stay, was released as a blockbuster movie starring Chloë Grace Moretz in 2014. Her most recent YA novel is We Are Inevitable. Gayle lives in Brooklyn, New York with her family.

Look for Frankie & Bug on October 12, 2021. 


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