Fran Ellen's House, Bears' House #2 by Marilyn Sachs

Fran Ellen's House - Marilyn Sachs

A sequel to Sachs' depressing classic 'The Bears' House' turns out to be necessary, but not exactly enjoyable.  

 

Poor Fran Ellen. The happy ending to 'The Bears' House' was that social services gets called and her siblings get taken to separate homes. The sequel begins with the family reunited and Fran Ellen picking over the remains of the dollhouse. She had not been allowed to take it with her to the foster homes so it has been neglected and abused for two years at the shelter. Most of the furniture is gone or broken beyond repair, walls have been taken out, and while the three bears remain more or less intact, Goldilocks is gone forever.

 

Worst of all, Fran Ellen's beloved Flora, only an infant when taken away, is not happy to be back with her screaming, dirty, poor family after two years. She cries that she wants to go home and while Fran Ellen's mother has recovered, it doesn't seem like she can cope. There is a solution which is true to life, but casts a shadow over the book.

 

This was published 16 years after the original, but the two books feel seamless. An omnibus edition of these two would serve them well - both run under a hundred pages and the subject matter is so intense its better to be shelved with middle grade than with early chapter books. The siblings easily fall into the roles they played the last time they shared a roof, and Fran Ellen has better social skills and emotional strength, but it takes her some time to realize that she can take offer a lot to her family. It turns out they have a lot to offer her, too.

 

The broken doll house and its repair is a perfect metaphor and the perfect image for this age group. This is a book about poverty and second chances, and was hard to get into, but the ending is happy and believable. 

 

The Bears' House

 

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