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The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen…

The Loud Silence of Francine Green (2006)

by Karen Cushman

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Narrated by Anaka Shockley. I kept drifting off listening to the audio version and had to backtrack quite a bit. I plan to revisit in the print edition.

13-year-old Francine lives in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood movies and glamour. She’s an expert on the movie stars including Montgomery Clift and she attends a Catholic all-girls’ school. There she meets Sophie Bowman who has transferred to her class, having been kicked out of her previous school. Sophie is outspoken and passionate and her provocative views on free speech, Communism and the bomb stir up trouble with the nuns. Francine is more accustomed to “not getting involved” as her father advises, but being with Sophie challenges some of her long-held beliefs about the ways of the world.
( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
This story is set in the 1950's around the time of the cold war. It is about a girl Francine, who is described as plain, finding out who she is and that she has a voice. Through her friend Sophie, she is able to find an equal balance of having a voice, and also maintaining a good composure. I really enjoyed reading this story, and remembering the hard times of the awkward period where your stuck between a child and an adult. I also really liked how they were able to incorporate the history of the cold war and really show how it affected children at that age, what they were hearing about it, and how it made them feel. Great book!
  RiaO | Sep 19, 2013 |
Original review at The Little Bookworm

Francine lives in America in 1949/1950 at the beginning of the Cold Ward when everyone was fearful of Communists and bombs and Senator McCarthy was beginning his inquiries. She is a quiet girl who wants nothing more than to stay out of trouble. She cannot even write a big part for herself in the screenplay in her head. But when Francine meets the irrepressible Sophie, things begin to change for Francine and she begins to think outside of her own neighborhood and into the world beyond.

It was different from what I expected. I thought it was going to be about a girl who likes movie stars and is quiet and silly and that's about it. But I was wrong. I mean, Francine does like movie stars and is quiet, but she is worrying about big issues like the H-bomb and Communisim and none of the adults will listen to her or talk to her about the state of the world. I guess, in the 1950's, children and especially girls weren't taken seriously and were expected to be quiet and accept things the way they are, to stand still and look pretty so to speak. Francine makes friends with Sophie, who doesn't accept the status quo and asks a lot of questions and gets in trouble a lot. Sophie makes Francine think about what is going on in the world.

It was interesting to see this era through the eyes of a girl. It was funny how they thought if you ducked under a desk, then you'd be okay in the event of a nuclear blast. And how radioactivity wasn't really that dangerous. There was also a small view of the damage that Senator McCarthy did with his inquiries. Sophie's father is a screenwriter and he and his friends fall under scrutiny. The fallout was so sad. The ending made me sad, but it was well worth the read. ( )
  thelittlebookworm | Sep 8, 2009 |
i hated this book!!!!!! ( )
  daniela.2016 | Jun 8, 2009 |
Richie's Picks: THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN by Karen Cushman, Clarion, August 2006, ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

"I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

"But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side."
--Bob Dylan

"We closed our books and knelt down in the aisles next to our desks. After a quick Our Father and Hail Mary, Sister Basil said, 'Our Lady, holy Mother of God, we humbly beseech you to intercede for us with your divine Son that we may be with Him forever in Paradise. Ask Him to halt the Red Tide pouring out from Russia and lead the Godless communists to the True Church, for only then will there be Salvation for the Russian people and true peace for us all. And, if it be His will, may we be victorious over Saints Peter and Paul today on the volleyball court.'
"I knew Saints Peter and Paul was a school, like All Saints, but still Iimagined two old bearded saints in robes playing volleyball. I gurgled in my throat at the picture but didn't dare laugh out loud. Sister Basil would tie my tongue to the flagpole or something.
"Sophie gave a muffled snort. It was not muffled enough.
"Sister Basil rose from the ground like a column of smoke. 'Stand up,' she commanded. We stood.
" 'Not all of you,' Sister said, grabbing her pointer and smacking it on the floor. 'Just Miss Bowman.' The rest of us knelt down again. I leaned back against my heels. This could take awhile.
" 'You have a comment, Miss Bowman?'
" 'It just seemed silly, Sister, praying to win a ball game. Does God really care who wins?'
" 'That will do, Sophie.'
" 'And what if students at Saints Peter and Paul School pray too? What will God do?
" 'That's enough Sophie.'
" 'And why are we praying to win a volleyball game anyway when there are real problems in the world?'
"Sister Basil banged her pointer on the blackboard. 'Blessed Harvey, patron saint of croaking frogs, save me from this child!'
" 'And...'
"Sister lunged at Sophie, grabbed her by her hair, and pulled her to the front of the classroom. 'Enough! Enough of your interruptions, your blasphemy, and your impertinence! Here,' she said, pointing to the wastebasket in the corner, 'stand here where everyone can see you. And think about your sins.' Sophie stood next to the wastebasket, but Sister grabbed her hair again. 'No, Miss Bowman, in the basket. And don't slouch.' "

Francine Green is an eighth-grader at All Saints School for Girls (aka the Sinless Academy for the Maidenly). Francine is a middle child who has never questioned authority or even contemplated such a concept until she becomes friends with Sophie Bowman, a motherless, only child, whose father is a Hollywood scriptwriter. Sophie, who lives in Francine's neighborhood, is enrolled in All Saints after being expelled from the local public school for writing, "There is no free speech here" on the gymnasium floor in red paint.

In 1949 Hollywood, Francine and Sophie are living through a time of tremendous fear as Russia has just tested its first nuclear weapon, and President Truman has called for development of the hydrogen bomb.

"I knew what atomic bombs could do. I had seen Fox Movietone newsreels of Japanese cities turned to rubble, of exploding buildings, children on fire, piles and piles of charred bodies. And the world was getting more dangerous. I pulled the blankets over my head."

THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN is a tale of repression, Reds, blacklistings, and bomb shelters during the opening days of the Cold War. Francine is to be forever transformed through her friendship with Sophie, who questions everything including the existence of God and Hell, the wisdom of the arms race and of those responsible for it. Of course, for Sophie to do so makes her the ultimate nail sticking out, just begging to be hammered back into place.

"I looked at the statue of the Virgin Mary in the corner. Her face was gentle but sad, not only for her son, Jesus, who suffered and died on the cross, but for poor Sophie in the wastebasket, the pagan babies in Africa, and all the rest of us, wondering about Hell and communists and bombs."

"How can I save my little boy
From Oppenheimer's deadly toy
There is no monopoly of common sense
On either side of the political fence

"We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too"

One of the most revealing aspects of the story is the manner in which each member of Francine's family reacts to the threat of nuclear war: from her father with his "martoonies" and his confidence in the government, to her little brother, Artie, who begins having nightmares and sleepwalking episodes, to Francine, herself, who has seen the newsreels and thus knows very well that crawling under her classroom desk ("Stop, Drop, and Cover") is not going to do a damned thing to save her if a nuclear bomb really falls on LA.

What is happening elsewhere in Francine's community of Hollywood is brought home through the darkly absurd scenes in which the Petrovs, a nice old couple who escaped Russia, have their little grocery store repeatedly trashed for their crime of being from Russia, and with the introduction of Mr. Mandelbaum, through whom the reader can get an understanding of what blacklisting really meant.

" 'If there is no God,' Sophie said, 'there is no Hell, so I'm going to pray there is no God.'
" 'Who are you going to pray to?'
"She shook her head. 'I don't know. It's very puzzling.' "

Everything that Karen Cushman can do right--her substantial abilities as a writer that have brought her both a Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor for her work--is present in THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN. But, for the first time, Karen Cushman has not only written entertaining historic fiction with great female protagonists, she's written something that has both made me angry and has made me cry.

Richie Partington
BudNotBuddy@aol.com ( )
  richiespicks | May 26, 2009 |
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Awards and honors
Sooner or later one has to take sides if one is to remain human.
--Graham Greene, The Quiet American
For Nathan Adler, Lou Solomon, Philip Cushman,
and Trina Schart Hyman
for their courage and their example
First words
"Holy cow!" I said when Sophie Bowman told me she'd be joining All Saints School for Girls this year.
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Disambiguation notice
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618504559, Hardcover)

Francine Green 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. Francine would rather lose herself in a book, or in daydreams about her favorite Hollywood stars, than risk attracting attention or getting in trouble.

But when outspoken, passionate Sophie Bowman transfers into Francine’s class at All Saints School for Girls, 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.

Once again, Karen Cushman follows a young woman’s progress toward her true self, this time exploring the nature of friendship and the experience of growing up Catholic in an era that is both fascinating and relevant to today’s young people. Author’s note.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:53 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 1949, thirteen-year-old Francine goes to Catholic school in Los Angeles where she becomes best friends with a girl who questions authority and is frequently punished by the nuns, causing Francine to question her own values.

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