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Franklin In The Dark

Page history last edited by Joel Hoffman 9 years, 3 months ago

Plot Summary

*For an audio style overview of Franklin in the Dark, click here!

      Franklin in the Dark is a simple but worthwhile story about a turtle named Franklin who has a terrible fear of dark, small spaces.  It is the first book in a large series of storybooks about this character, Franklin. The large Franklin book series has also been adapted into a widely popular television series.  Each story has a particular subject or event which it is centered around; this book is centered around Franklin's fear of the darkness.  As a turtle, he is supposed to crawl inside his shell, but he is so afraid of the darkness that he refuses to climb inside and instead drags his shell around behind him every where he goes.  Franklin's mom tells him that he should not fear his shell and that there is nothing scary inside of it, but Franklin is not convinced.  Franklin is not sure what to do about this fear, and expresses it throughout the book to many other characters. 

     So one day, he sets out on a walk and asks advice from various animals he encounters, including polar bear, lion, duck, and bird.  Each of these animals reveal their own unique fears to Franklin, and they also show a way that they deal with their fears. The first animal that Franklin comes across is the duck. The duck is actually afraid of deep water, so she wears water wings. Although water wings are completely useless to Franklin because his fear is of the darkness, and not deep water, Franklin is surprised and comforted by the fact that the other characters are afraid of things too. Another animal that Franklin runs into is the lion. The lion is afraid of loud noises and sometimes when nobody is looking he would wear his ear muffs. This again, like the duck does not help Franklin. The third animal Franklin stumbles upon is the bird. When Franklin asks the bird if it could help him with his fear of the dark, the bird, like the other animals can not but offers Franklin insight on its fear, flying high and getting dizzy. This again did not help Franklin and he moved on. The last animal Franklin finds is the polar bear. Like all the other times before Franklin asks if the polar bear had any ideas to help him get over his fear of his shell and like all the other instances the polar bear could only offer Franklin insight on what he was afraid of. The polar bear was afraid of freezing on cold, icy nights so sometimes he wears his snowsuit. Franklin again moves on without any advice as to how to overcome his fear.

     Later that day, Franklin's mother sets out searching for Franklin when she realizes he has been gone for a long time and that it was becoming late in the evening.  When she finds him, she tells Franklin she was so afraid because she did not know where he was.  Franklin was astounded at the fact this his own mother had fears.  He had not realized that grown-ups could be afraid of things too. While his new realization that everybody has fears comforts him and gives him something to think about, Franklin still has not come up with a way to face his fear of the darkness.  He realizes that nobody can face his fears for him, and if he is to overcome fear of the dark, he must muster up the courage to face it himself.  This is a lot easier said than done for Franklin, however. Can the insights of his fellow animals help him in any way?  Pick up a copy of the book to find out if Franklin is able to overcome fear of darkness or if he will forced to drag his shell around behind him wherever he goes for the rest of his life. 

     This book is mostly in the fantasy genre because of the many aspects of personification, such as the talking animals who behave, act, and dress like human beings. For example Franklin is seen with a t-shirt on and also the polar bear wears a hat and snow pants. Additionally, Franklin is a talking turtle who walks on two legs and can come out of his shell and carry it behind him.  There are many other  talking animals in the story as well. Since these are obviously imaginative and fictional characteristics, this book falls into the fantasy genre by definition that the author "attributes human thoughts, feelings, and language through animals that have human characteristics" (Johnson 155). This story more specifically falls under low fantasy as it is a children's book and it has the motif of magic through the talking animals (Johnson 157). However, if one ignores the personification, this book could also be partly Contemporary Realistic Fiction.  Fear of the darkness is very common and it would be very common and normal for a young child to ask their friends for help facing their fears.  In this way, the book is very realistic and feasible as intended by the author. 


Textual Elements

     As stated before, the story is about a turtle named Franklin who is very afraid of the dark.  This in turn makes him afraid of his own shell, which is supposed to provide him with shelter to sleep at night. Franklin thinks that monsters, or what he calls, "creepy things, slippery things, and monsters" reside in his shell, as depicted in an illustration early in the story, just as human children often times think that monsters reside under their beds or in their closets, keeping them from falling asleep.  He asks for the advice from his friends on a journey through the countryside, his mother and finally himself in order to become brave and face his fears. 

     The setting of the story is outdoors and also inside Franklin's house.  The story begins near a pond where he finds the duck, and then he walks around to different places outside to find the other characters. For example, he finds the lion in a field, he finds the bird on the road, and finally he finds the polar bear in his icy cave. The story in terms of setting concludes at his home where he finally takes solace in the dinner his mother prepares for him and rest from the long journey.

     The main character in the story is Franklin, but it also includes his mother, the duck, the polar bear, the bird, and the lion.  The story is told in the third person.  The narrator talks about Franklin and his friends, and tells the story of them for the reader. The story is told from Franklin's point of view since he is the main character and he has a problem that needs solving. The theme of the story revolves around bravery and in turn relays that message to its readers, telling children to be brave. The message of this story gives the reader comfort in knowing that the dark is nothing to be afraid of.  It also shows them that everyone has fears, and that it is perfectly normal to be afraid of something even if it is something that one is not "supposed" to be afraid of. 


 Artistic Elements

     All of the illustrations in the book are done by Brenda Clark.  They are done in representational art.  All of the animals look like real animals, except for the fact that they wear clothes and perform physical tasks that actual animals could not perform.  The grass looks like grass, the rocks look like rocks, etc.  Everything looks as it would in real life.  The illustrator also uses a lot of outline art in her pictures.  There are many outlines around figures, including Franklin, the other animals, even blades of glass.  The pictures are directly correlated with the words.  Readers are able to use their imagination to tell a story using only the pictures, or they could also tell a story using their imagination and by reading the words.  Most of the illustrations are done on double-page spreads, providing a lot of detail and imagery to take in. The words are always only on one page, so that it does not take away from the importance and significant effect of the picture.  The illustrator uses very bright and vivid colors to capture readers' attention like where the lion is illustrated amongst a bed of flowers with bright red ear muffs on. Another example of an especially good picture is when Franklin is walking home, consisting of a full page spread of the pond and the trees/grass surrounding it near dusk.  The use of greens and blues is outstanding and it really draws the reader into the scene of dusk as if he or she can almost smell the night air.


Analysis and Critique

     In critically analyzing Franklin the Dark, one can give response to several different features including ideological themes. First, it is clear what has the power in this story. Fear holds a tight grip over the characters and most importantly Franklin as evidenced when Franklin and his mother shine a flashlight inside his shell. The story revolves around Franklin's fear of the dark and it is developed around that theme as Franklin journeys to try and cure his fear. Franklin is the character who has little power but through courage he journeys around the countryside asking other characters to help him try to find a solution to his problem, instead of simply accepting it for what it is. There is however a power shift in the story at the conclusion. It is however Franklin's voice that is heard throughout the story even though as stated above it is told in the third person. It is through Franklin's voice in the story that the reader gains valuable insight toward his thoughts and feelings, especially those that relate to his fears. It is very easy to observe then that Bourgeois intends to position the reader to a place where it is easy to understand Franklin's feelings about the dark. Bourgeois positions the reader in this way perhaps as an attempt to express her beliefs about the situation. This could be a move to express the belief that everyone needs help in his or her life at points, and asking for help from others, even if he or she does not receive the response they are looking for, can prove to be beneficial when viewed in a different light in the future, and under a different mindset as Franklin did at the conclusion of the story.

     To move toward critiquing, I thought this book was really good as a bedtime story, or for children who are afraid of the dark.  Sometimes people are embarrassed of their fears, and this book reminds readers that everyone has something they are afraid of. The plot plays well to this theme as Franklin draws the solution to his problem from the characters in the story.  No matter if you are a duck, polar bear, human or even a lion, everyone has fears.  It shows readers that although being afraid of the dark is natural, there is no logical reason to be afraid of it.  The author connects to the children well, and sends a good message to both children and adult readers, because as the book points out, even adults are afraid of things sometimes.  Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark, the author and illustrator, did a phenomenal job of working together, coordinating the story and making sure all of the pictures matched with the words on the page.  It is also great that the book is a Franklin book because Franklin is a well known character to kids.  Kids are more likely to listen to a book about a familiar character than someone they have not heard of.  Overall this book is a good read for readers of any age, as nearly everyone can relate to the theme of fears; however the reading level most likely corresponds with early elementary school aged children.


Interested in reading more about the authors of the Franklin series and how Paulette Bourgeois first came up with the idea to write a story about a turtle who is afraid of the dark? Check out this webpage, based on an interview with the author herself! In addition, if you wish to learn more about Paulette Bourgeois, visit this scholastic website. Also, if you really enjoyed Brenda Clark's illustrations, visit this site to find out more about her as well.


If you wish to find more Franklin titles, this website will help.




Bourgeois, Paula. Franklin In The Dark. Illus. Brenda Clark. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc, 1986.


Johnson, Denise. The Joy of Children's Literature. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009. 155-57. Print.











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