Freaky Fast Frankie Joe

Book Reviews

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe.
Clifton, Lutricia (author).
Apr. 2012. 248p. Holiday, hardcover, $16.95 (9780823423675). Grades 4-6.
REVIEW.  First published May 1, 2012 (Booklist).

Twelve-year-old Frankie Joe has a lot of new people in his life after his mom lands in jail and he is sent off to Plainview, Illinois: his father, the four half brothers he is now forced to live with, and a school full of kids all too ready to label the tall boy from Texas as a freak. Nevertheless, the hardworking Frankie Joe struggles through it all to emerge as a winning protagonist. At first the unhappy boy plans on using his trustworthy bike to haul himself back to Laredo. But as Frankie Joe starts a delivery service in an effort to make money for his secret trip, he gets to know his adopted town. The admiration and trust he finds from its disparate inhabitants (a lonely farmer, an elderly woman concocting cosmetics, a perky classmate) begin to change the gangly boy’s opinions, just as surely as the steady, no-nonsense affection of his father and stepmother. Readers who enjoy graceful, understated humor in their realistic fiction should find this right up their alley—or corn field, as it the case may be.— Karen Cruze

Horn Book Guide:
Clifton, Lutricia Freaky Fast Frankie Joe
   248 pp. Holiday 2012. ISBN 978-0-8234-2367-5
(3) 4-6 After his flighty mother goes to jail, Frankie Joe moves from Texas to Illinois to live with his well-organized father (whom he doesn’t remember) and four half brothers. Frankie Joe is an appealing, resilient character who, in spite of his resentment and anger, possesses an easygoing determination to not only survive but to do so with humor and dignity.

Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine [or Guide, as applicable] by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,

School Library Journal:
CLIFTON, Lutricia. Freaky Fast Frankie Joe. 248p. CIP. Holiday House. 2012. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2367-5. LC 2011019976.

Gr 4-6–With his mom in jail for drug possession, Frankie Joe goes to live in Illinois with his father, whom he barely remembers, and his father’s new wife and four sons. None of the boys is happy with this arrangement. To make matters worse, the 12-year-old is placed in fourth grade instead of sixth because he missed too much school the previous year. Eager to escape from this life, Frankie Joe starts a bicycle delivery business to try to save enough money to return to his friends in his Texas trailer park. When his mother gets out of jail and agrees to let his new family adopt him, Frankie Joe has to rethink his plans and come to grips with the fact that she has another life and doesn’t want him with her. Definitions of words the protagonist looks up to educate himself are interspersed throughout this first novel that tugs at readers’ heartstrings. Although Frankie Joe’s amazing adaptation to a stable environment is almost too good to be true, children in blended families, including reluctant readers, will relate to this story.–Kathy Lyday, William Lenoir Middle School, Lenoir, NC


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