Book Review: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie GarciaBy Cindy L. Rodriguez

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: How do you know someone after they’re gone? Frenchie Garcia didn’t know she would be the last person to see Andy Cooper alive. She barely knew him. So why did he choose to be with he before he committed suicide? Her imaginary pal Em (a.k.a Emily Dickinson), who Frenchie visits regularly at her favorite place–the cemetery–is the only one who knows about her last hours with Andy. With guilt and confusion mounting, can Frenchie pull off the one thing that could give her closure?

MY TWO CENTS: Frenchie goes on a road trip with a super-cute new “friend” Colin to make sense of what happened the one and only night she hung out with Andy Cooper, the boy she loved from afar through high school. Frenchie is haunted by the usual questions when grieving: Why? Why him? What could I have done to help him? Could I have stopped him? The last two questions are most painful because she was the last person to see Andy before he died, and, therefore, feels responsible. Sanchez easily blends heart-wrenching grief with regular teen angst, serious moments of conversation with quips like, “Get up, Loser!”from Robyn, Frenchie’s friend who knows something is wrong, but isn’t sure what. Also, Frenchie Garcia is a Latina protagonist in a book that isn’t about being Latina. Frenchie is an artist who likes punk rock and Emily Dickinson; she’s a young Latina who doesn’t speak a single word of Spanish in the novel. Some readers/writers/bloggers have asked for more books with diverse characters who are not dealing with issues of ethnicity, culture, race, etc. This is a good example.

TEACHING TIPS: What student wouldn’t fill an entire notebook about a day they’d like to do-over? This is a perfect before-reading activity that could be revisited and added to as the novel continues. As Frenchie leads Colin through her last night with Andy, students could write about their chosen “do-over” night, what they’d do differently, and what they’d discover. By the end, students have read a cool book and written a personal narrative!

Emily Dickinson’s poetry is made for close reading, which is all the rage with the new Common Core State Standards. Students could read and re-read any of Dickinson’s poems featured in the novel. Close, multiple readings allow students to analyze work down to the word level to gain deeper meaning. In this case, students would gain a deeper understanding of Dickinson and Sanchez’s novel, as they could discuss how the poems fit with the novel.


AUTHOR: Jenny Torres Sanchez lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and children. Before writing her debut novel, The Downside of Being Charlie, she taught high school for several years. She credits her eclectic students for inspiring her to write young adult novels.

Her other YA novel is:

The Downside of Being Charlie

FOR MORE INFORMATION about Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, visit your local library or book store. Also, check out Running Press,, and Barnes and

Author Jenny Torres Sanchez & Her Characters Are Inspired by the Arts

By Jenny Torres Sanchez

When I was in school and I’d read a story in my English textbook, many times there was a photo or an art piece that went along with it. And there’d always be a question at the end of the story that would ask how the art piece and story go together. Some people hated that question.

I loved it.

I’ve always loved the idea of art going together. It makes sense to me, the way they connect. The way one piece of art can inspire another piece of art, or how you can see a story in a painting, or how a story can paint images in your head. I LOVE that. I guess that’s why I find a lot of inspiration in other forms of art. Not only do I enjoy them for what they are (a striking painting, a haunting photo, a song that you can’t get out of your head), but I also enjoy them because of the stories I see in them.

CharlieMusic? Listen to the lyrics; there’s a story there. Paintings? Full of story, either of the subject or the artist. Photography? Setting. People. Captured moments. It’s kind of like an artist is setting me up for a story, igniting that spark that helps me write. For me, all art is striving to make a connection, with the reader, with the listener, with the viewer. It’s striving to ask you to look inside yourself, or outside yourself, and really wonder and think and feel. And I think you really need to feel to write, so for me the two go hand in hand.

But I also think art can be more than inspiration.

In my books, my characters often turn to art in some way while they’re going through a difficult time. In The Downside of Being Charlie, Charlie finds he can make better sense of the world through the lens of a camera. He is incredibly vulnerable and scared and unable to express himself or deal with his family issues. But in photography, he finds a way to do that. Actually, with Charlie, photography becomes this way of seeing things, exposing things no one else around him wants to see. So, photography also becomes this very powerful and empowering thing for him.

FrenchieIn Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, Frenchie is fascinated by Emily Dickinson’s poems, specifically those about death because she’s is in a dark place in her life. Her high school crush has just committed suicide after an amazing night of adventure with her. Dickinson’s poetry reflects Frenchie’s own feelings, and helps her to come to terms with something that just doesn’t make sense.

I don’t set out to make my characters artsy but they usually end up that way. I think it’s because I also see the arts as something that can save us (I hesitate to use the word save, I really do, because I think ultimately, we choose to save ourselves). But I truly believe music, art, writing, stories can offer us a safe haven and inspiration. A place to hang out for awhile, sometimes as an escape, sometimes as a place to make better sense of whatever it is we are going through. Sometimes it is conscious, and sometimes, not so much. Either way, the arts really can be a sort of salve for anyone who has gone through tough times. I like salve better than save. Add the L.

Overall though, art is pretty amazing in any medium. It asks us to feel. It offers us comfort and understanding. And that can’t be bad.

Jenny TorresFrom the Running Press site: Jenny Torres Sanchez lives in Florida with her husband and children where she currently writes full time. Before her debut novel The Downside of Being Charlie she taught high school for several years, where she credits her eclectic students for inspiring her to write young adult novels.

On Thursday, her second novel, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia will be featured on our Libros Latin@s post.

12 Days of Christmas Book Giveaway!!

¡Feliz Navidad! ¡Feliz Natal! Merry Christmas!

We are celebrating the holiday with a 12-book giveaway. Here’s how it works: enter by clicking on the “a Rafflecopter giveaway” link below the book images. From Christmas Day through Three Kings Day (January 6), one lucky winner will win one of these awesome books.

12 days = 12 books = 12 winners.

One of them could be you!

Remember, when you enter, you are putting your name into a pool for any of these books, not one in particular. To increase your chances, you can Tweet about the giveaway, follow us on Twitter, like our Facebook page, leave a comment, or share news of our giveaway on your blog or website. Good luck and thanks for entering and spreading the word about Latin@s in Kid Lit! Winners will be notified each day and arrangements will be made for shipping. We will ship only within the US and Canada.

After today, you will also find this information on a page in the menu area so that you can easily find it and enter over the next three weeks!

What Can't Wait    The Knife and the Butterfly    Torn    Billy the Kid     The Savage Blue      Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White     Thunderous whisper     Frenchie     The Living     Aristotle    Feliz    Senor Pancho

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Las Calaveras Todas Blancas Son* Or What is the Day of the Dead?


By Zoraida Córdova

The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that takes place on November 1st (All Soul’s Day) and November 2nd (All Saint’s Day), and celebrates, even plays with, the dead. Its roots are a mixture of Orthodox Catholicism and pre-Hispanic traditions of prayers and material offerings. Catholics all over the world celebrate these two days, but Mexico takes it to another level. Instead of just celebrating the saints and martyrs, entire altars are built for deceased family members. There’s food and drinks and sugar skulls and singing. It’s like a big family reunion, only your grandmother’s ghost is invited as well. It is colorful and loud; the opposite of what you think of when visiting cemeteries.**

So, what does the Day of the Dead have to do with you, Zoraida?

Now, I’m a third-party observer here. Although, in Ecuador, they do make a purple drink called “colada morada” (made of some sort of blackberry and purple maize) specifically for this time of year. My Ecuadorian family is Catholic, but I’ve always considered myself a practicing agnostic (it’s not a real thing, but sure). I suck at memorizing prayers, and yet every time I pass a cemetery I cross myself. I don’t associate with any religion, and yet, I’ve always been drawn to this particular celebration.

It could be that I’m not drawn to the religious aspects of this celebration, but to the dead themselves. It’s a little macabre, I know, but hang with me here. Ever since I was little I loved ghost stories. I thought La Llorona (the weeping woman/Latina banshee figure) was real the same way most kids think the Easter Bunny is real. I sang to old salsa songs about skeletons (see blog post title). I am fascinated by death, and you know what? So are a lot of people who are not Catholic or Mexican.

What do you mean?

Well, go to your nearest book store and browse. How many bestsellers do you see featuring vampires and ghosts and zombies? I know, it’s not the same as a religious celebration honoring your dead loved ones. But I do believe that we are drawn to death and the undead, and all of the mystery it holds.

Then, think about other religions that have ceremonies/feasts to celebrate their dead. In Chinese culture, the seventh month is called “ghost month,” when the dead come to walk among the living*** In Korea, Chuseok is a holiday when people return to their ancestral hometowns.**** It’s like a combination of Thanksgiving and the Day of the Dead. And these are the only ones I’ve heard about. I can only imagine the others.

And what does this have to do with kidlit?

Loads! Look at these titles.

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The Tequila Worm     Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia     The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4)

From twin sisters finding a way to contact each other post mortem, to a skeleton boy who makes friends with the living, to a young girl dealing with her grandfather’s death, to demigods conquering the physical manifestations of death, the Day of the Dead has made its way into our literature.

No matter what we believe in or where we come from, at the end of the day, we can all relate to loss. It’s sad and powerful and it connects us at a very basic level.

Do you celebrate the Day of the Dead? And if you don’t, do you have a similar tradition? Share it with us in the comments!

* Las Calaberas by Lisandro Meza

** The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico by Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloe Sayer

*** I first read this in House of Hades by Rick Riordan (it’s true).