Review posted April 21, 2022.
Katherine Tegen Books, 2022. 322 pages.
Review written April 19, 2022, from a library book
Leslie Connor is the author of The Truth According to Mason Buttle, a book that completely stole my heart from the year I was on the Newbery Committee. It did win the Schneider Family Award for portrayal of a disability, and Anybody Here Seen Frenchie? may well do the same.
Frenchie is an eleven-year-old boy who doesn't speak. But his best friend, Aurora, knows how to watch him and find out what he's thinking and feeling. Frenchie loves birds, the sky, and the sun. Aurora is in many ways the opposite of Frenchie, loud and talkative. But together, they have adventures. They live in the Maine woods, and enjoy seeing the wildlife and natural wonders, though Frenchie is the best at spotting birds. He'll whistle and flap his hands when he does. Aurora likes to do things like follow the amazing piebald deer that has been lurking in the woods.
Aurora's shaken by the news that for sixth grade, she and Frenchie will be in different classrooms. She makes some new friends in her new classroom, but Frenchie is still her best friend. And Aurora walks him to his classroom each morning.
But one morning, Aurora's father drives them to school, and Frenchie doesn't make it to his classroom. No one can find him in the school building anywhere. Aurora feels like she's failed her friend.
But the entire town springs into action, and the quest to find Frenchie is on.
The story is mostly told from Aurora's perspective, but we also get episodes from other characters who live in the town, as well as Frenchie's perspective. When he first wanders off, following something he knows Aurora would want to see, he passes very close to other people in town, but one after another, they fail to notice him.
The characters in this book are delightful, including loud and exuberant Aurora, who's so good at noticing what Frenchie needs, the softball coach who knows woodcraft, the couple who bakes and delivers blueberry pies, and Frenchie himself, who keeps pictures of birds in his special needlepoint purse. I also enjoyed Aurora's toddler brother, who spotted what Frenchie was up to right from the start -- if only anyone had understood him.