Review of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

by E. Lockhart

Hyperion, New York, 2008. 345 pages.
2009 Printz Honor Book
Starred Review

I took an online course about the Printz Award, and the course finally got me to read this wonderful book.

Frankie’s father is sending her to the exclusive prep school where he attended. Her Dad still meets with his buddies and talks about their secret society, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Unfortunately, it was only for men, so he can’t reveal to Frankie where they hid their record of their escapades, The Disreputable History.

When Frankie’s new boyfriend invites her to a party after curfew and the invitation has a seal with a picture of a basset hound, it’s pretty easy for her to figure out what he’s up to. She doesn’t like it when he won’t tell her anything about his involvement. He thinks of her as a pretty little thing, and that what he does with his friends shouldn’t concern her.

Here’s the letter that opens The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks:

“To: Headmaster Richmond and the Board of Directors, Alabaster Preparatory Academy

“I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order — including the Library Lady, the Doggies in the Window, the Night of a Thousand Dogs, the Canned Beet Rebellion, and the abduction of the Guppy.

“That is, I wrote the directives telling everyone what to do.

“I, and I alone.

“No matter what Porter Welsch told you in his statement.

“Of course, the dogs of the Order are human beings with free will,. They contributed their labor under no explicit compunction. I did not threaten them or coerce them in any way, and if they chose to follow my instructions, it was not because they feared retribution.

“You have requested that I provide you with their names. I respectfully decline to do so. It’s not for me to pugn or impugn their characters.

“I would like to point out that many of the Order’s escapades were intended as social criticism. And that many of the Order’s members were probably diverted from more self-destructive behaviors by the activities prescribed them by me. So maybe my actions contributed to a larger good, despite the inconveniences you, no doubt, suffered.

“I do understand the administration’s disgruntlement over the incidents. I see that my behavior disrupted the smooth running of your patriarchal establishment. And yet I would like to suggest that you view each of the Loyal Order’s projects with the gruntlement that should attend the creative civil disobedience of students who are politically aware and artistically expressive.

“I am not asking that you indulge my behavior; merely that you do not dulge it without considering its context.

“Yours sincerely,

“Frances Rose Landau-Banks”

How does Frankie manage to out-prank the pranksters? What are these intriguingly named escapades? In what sense were they social activism? And what happens when she pulls them off?

All is revealed in this delightful book. It’s amazing how gripping the plot is, even when you’re told what happens right at the outset. You can’t help but love Frankie and will keep reading to see what clever stunt she accomplishes next, and if her boyfriend and his buddies will learn to take her seriously. Along the way, she has lots to say about our patriarchal society.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

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