When the novel begins, Nick is a discontented teen looking for ways to cause minor trouble in his Language Arts class. He finds a way by calling a pen “frindle,” never imagining how far this small word would travel. Nick gets the result he wanted, interrupting his class, but as the frindle craze escalates into a national obsession, Nick begins to feel it is spinning out of control.
Nick learns many lessons because of the frindle. He realizes that things may seem one way at first look, but be very different underneath. A common phrase for this is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ He eventually learns from Mrs. Granger’s letter that she was angry because she valued the English language so much, not because she disliked Nick. Indeed later she stands behind him, even making extra effort to talk with him when he becomes upset about the growing popularity of the frindle.
Nick and the people of Westfield also learn that ideas can expand and become something greater than ever intended when they are left to grow on their own. In a practical sense, the frindle helps Westfield because of the national publicity showered on the town. Bud Lawrence makes money selling frindle pens. From the profits Nick is able to establish a trust fund for his parents and a scholarship in honor of Mrs. Granger. He also leads change to the school lunch program.
Besides the economic gain to Nick and the town, they also learn to appreciate the enormous effect of language. One small word transformed lives and taught far reaching lessons.