Frindle

Frindle Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Andrew Clements's Frindle. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Andrew Clements

Clements's family lived in several New Jersey towns before moving to Illinois when Andrew Clements was in the sixth grade. The family spent its summers on a lake in Maine with no television or phone, which Clements credits with giving him ample time to read. Clements studied English at Northwestern University and after teaching writing at several high school summer workshops, he decided to become a teacher. He earned his MA in teaching at National Louis University and then spent seven years teaching fourth grade, eighth grade, and high school outside of Chicago. He married and had his first son during this time. He and his family moved to New York City when budget cuts made it seem as though Clements's job wasn't secure. There, he briefly worked as a singer-songwriter and then entered the world of publishing. His colleagues in the publishing industry helped him write his first children's picture books and, after working on the idea for six years, Clements published Frindle. He's published a number of other award-winning children's books since then and currently lives with his wife in Maine.
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Historical Context of Frindle

The earliest "dictionaries" come from the Akkadian Empire and date to around 2300 BCE. Though there have been a number of dictionary-like reference texts from cultures around the world since then, most of them dealt with translating from other languages or grouped words by category rather than alphabetically. The first English-only alphabetical dictionary was published in 1604 by Robert Cawdrey, though many people considered it unreliable. 150 years later, in 1755, Samuel Johnson published A Dictionary of the English Language, which is considered to be the first modern dictionary. In the United States, Noah Webster began publishing dictionaries in 1806, though it wasn't until 1828 that he published An American Dictionary of the English Language, which contained thousands of words that had never been published in British English dictionaries before. Webster was a spelling reformer and his dictionary was instrumental in differentiating between British English and American English. Dictionaries add words constantly, and as with "frindle," the new words reflect changes in the way people communicate with each other and often emerge from fringe groups before entering the general lexicon and making it into the official dictionary. In 2015, the Oxford Dictionaries even named an emoji as their Word of the Year.

Other Books Related to Frindle

Andrew Clements has written a number of novels for elementary-age readers, including No Talking, The Report Card, and Lunch Money. Other novels for this age group that deal with language and learning specifically include Sharon Creech's Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, and Esme Raji Codell's Sahara Special. For older readers, Carl Hiaasen's series of eco-mysteries, beginning with Hoot, shows students working together to protest and stand up for their beliefs, something that Nick and his friends model in Frindle.
Key Facts about Frindle
  • Full Title: Frindle
  • When Written: 1990-1996
  • Where Written: New York, NY
  • When Published: 1996
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Children's Fiction
  • Setting: Westfield, New Hampshire
  • Climax: The battle between Mrs. Granger and Nick ends with the inclusion of "frindle" in the dictionary
  • Antagonist: Mrs. Granger, though this is revealed to be a role she chose to play, not something indicative of her true beliefs
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient

Extra Credit for Frindle

Close, but not quite. Though Frindle states the story of Richard Daley creating the word "quiz" out of thin air as fact, in truth, the word had been around for about ten years before the origin story allegedly took place. The word likely originated as a slang word used by students, in much the same way that Nick creates "frindle."

Phoenix. Despite Frindle's popularity and the many smaller awards it won when it was first published, the novel didn't win any major awards for children's books. Because of this, in 2016 Frindle earned the Phoenix Award, which, according to the Children's Literature Association, "is intended to recognize books of high literary merit, which never won award at the time of publication, and which are still worthy of recognition."