An Idea Put to the Test: A Review of ‘Frindle’

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.” – Emily Dickinson

Reading Level

Grades 3-5, 6-8 [Scholastic]

AR 5.4 [2 points]

Interest Level

Grades 4-8

Review and Comments

This story is about Nicholas Allen’s successful campaign to use his newly invented word, frindle.

Nick has a reputation for having very creative, original ideas – ideas that often push the limits of his teachers’ patience.  Children, on the other hand, seem drawn to his plans.  One of his fool proof ideas is the “teacher-stopper.”  So, Nick tests his new fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Granger, with his tried and true routine of asking a question to take up class time. This plan never fails. He asks, “Why do words mean what they mean?”  She explains that “a word means something because he, Nick, says it does.”  Now that is food for thought.  So, when he finds a pen on the way home from school, he decides to call it a different name.  He calls it a frindle.  And that simple decision begins Nick’s greatest scheme.  He decides to call a pen a frindle while at home, at school, and he even asks his friends to join him.

The new word is launched in Mrs. Granger’s class.  She feels it is a disruption and her opinion becomes more adamant as time goes on. More and more students adopt the new word. Mrs. Granger imposes an after school consequence on anyone who uses the word frindle during class, which upsets quite a few parents.  Mrs. Granger and Nick continue to disagree about the new word.  In her opinion, it has gone far enough, but Nick does not see anything wrong with his plan. Even a home visit from the Principal changes nothing.

A reporter from the newspaper investigates the frindle phenomenon and that results in an article entitled “Move Over, Mr. Webster”.  The reaction to the article is widespread and conflicting.  Many people, including Nick’s mom and the superintendent of schools, are not happy about the article.  On the other hand, students in the junior high and high school begin using the word frindle.  And a man known around town as in investor in profitable ideas successfully sells pens with the word frindle written on it. Then, a national news agency broadcasts the frindle story all over America.  This exposure continues to help the investor’s business tremendously.  He even pays a percentage of the profits to Nick for his future college expenses.

After awhile, things begin to settle down at school, but the word frindle is now used by teachers and students alike.  Mrs. Granger even gives up prohibiting the word.

Time passes and Nick is in college. He receives an unexpected package from Mrs. Granger.  The package contains a brand new college dictionary and a short note that directs him to page 541. There is his word!

frin   dle (frin’ dl) n. a device used to write or make marks with ink

[arbitrary coinage; originated by Nicholas Allen, American, 1987- (see pen)]

Mrs. Granger also includes a letter that expresses an apology for her initial anger about the word frindle and explains how she feels about Nick and his plan to make up a new word.

That is not the end of the story however.  A month later, Mrs. Granger receives a package from the school district.  A permanent trust fund for college scholarships has been established in her name with a donation of one million dollars.  It is signed “from one of your former students.”  There is also a beautiful fountain pen imprinted with the words “This object belongs to Mrs. Lorelei Granger, and she may call it any name she chooses – With love from Nicholas Allen.”

The frindle story covers quite an extended period of time.  During those years, the characters are respectful even though they disagree – sometimes strongly.  I find some of the conversations push the limits, including those between Nick and Mrs. Granger and those between the Principal and Nick’s parents (including Nick’s thoughts) but a strained respect is maintained.  His parents want Nick to investigate his ideas (although his father reaches the end of his patience eventually) but insist that he is always respectful.

Chapter two is my absolute favorite chapter in the book.  I read it from the prospective of a student in fifth grade and as a fifth grade teacher.  Mrs. Granger’s description was my fifth grade teacher!   I think the only difference is that my teacher also had a black suit in her rotation of “uniforms.”  Nick mentions Mrs. Granger’s eyes which gives the reader clues to her teacher responses to her students.  He says her eyes could turn on full power, twinkle, or laugh, AND she has x-ray vision!  Mrs. Granger’s battle cry is, “Look it up!”  Now how many of us have used that line or heard it from our own teachers and parents!

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion


“The U.S. National Education Association named Frindle one of “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children” based on a 2007 online poll. In 2012 it was ranked number 38 among all-time children’s novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily U.S. audience. The book has received more than 35 awards and honors.” 

“8 Fun Dictionary Activities” includes activities that can be used in a classroom setting or with individual children to strengthen dictionary skills.  Idea #6 “Make New Words” relates directly to Frindle.

Vocabulary:   This story has many vocabulary words that will enrich a child’s reading and writing that are listed below:

deserve, plenty, thermostat, jolt, annoying, promptly, apologize, gradual, experiment, reputation, cameo, pride, essential, acquire, frantically, acquaint, cursive, guarantee, launch, oral, suppose, embody, ingredient, practically, concentration, adjust, fascinating, identify, preposition, absorb, serious, major, blurt, purpose, according, emphasize, disrupt, notice, honor, detention, abruptly, arrange, involve, rebellion, fuss, standard, authority, issue, vandalism, disrespectful, rowdy, gazette, pace, prank, phony, opinion, scatter, flecked, merely, predict, adopt, address, pucker, granger, publish, superintendent, awkward, custodian, investment, citizen, preliminary, imprint, replace, controversial, marketing, apply, guardian, ruckus, barely, import, recall, remarkable, commotion, manage, arbitrary, satellite, oblong, establish, urge, obviously, retire, engrave

Draw a picture of a character from the story. Write words, including some of the vocabulary words, that describe the character around the picture.

Cause and Effect:

 There are many examples of cause and effect throughout the story.

  1. Find examples of cause and effect and write them next to each other (or in boxes next to each other) with an arrow pointing from the cause to the effect. [Example: Cause – Students write the word frindle instead of the word pen on a spelling test. Effect – The word is marked wrong and no one gets 100% on the test.]
  2. Make a flow chart showing cause and effect by chapter.

Catholic Resources

Patron Saints for the Classroom:

  • Thomas Aquinas, a brilliant scholar, is one of many patron saints of students.
  • Catherine of Alexandriawas famous for her debating skills and is a patron of students, teachers, and librarians.
  • Joseph of Cupertino, famously a struggling student, is the patron of students taking exams.
  • Gregory the Great, a patron of teachers, was a pope and writer who invented the calendar we use today as well as a form of church music that bears his name (Gregorian chant).
  • John Baptist de la Salleworked to improve schools and is a patron of teachers.
  • Gemma Galgani, a patron of students, is known for having been a conscientious student herself.
  • Albert the Greatwas one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ teachers and is the patron of science students.
  • John Berchmansis a patron against gossip; he endeavored to say something nice about everyone.
  • Aloysius Gonzagawas so wise that by the age of 11 he was teaching catechism to other children. He is the patron of young students.
  • Thèrése of Lisieux, known for her “little way” of kindness toward others, struggled with social relationships in school and is an excellent patron for students.

CCC 2199 The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.