Frindle Summary

In Frindle, precocious fifth-grader Nick tries to irritate his teacher, Mrs. Granger, by inventing a new word, "frindle." The word takes off and becomes a worldwide phenomenon thanks in part to businessman Bud Lawrence, who markets frindle products and gives Nick a cut of the profits.

  • Nick has a reputation for disrupting class. When he starts fifth grade, he tests his teacher, Mrs. Granger, by asking her who decides what words mean. This results in him inventing a new word, "frindle," which originally means pen.

  • A journalist picks up the "frindle" story, which quickly makes Nick famous. He's invited on Late Night with David Letterman to discuss the phenomenon. A local businessman, Bud Lawrence, starts selling frindle products and gives Nick 30% of the profits.

  • When Nick turns 21, he gains access to the trust fund into which his father has saved the profits from the frindle products. Nick uses some of that considerable sum to make a one million dollar donation to his old elementary school.

Introduction

Frindle is a terrific novel that reads almost like a contemporary fable or fairy tale in its simplicity. A boy too creative for the confines of elementary school meets his match in an extremely exacting teacher. They square off in an epic battle over…an invented word.

Yes. The title comes from "frindle," the word for "pen" that young Nick Allen thinks up when he is trying to avoid working for Mrs. Granger, his fifth grade language arts teacher. Both characters are classic literary types: Nick is a smart and rebellious youth, while the legendary Mrs. Granger is a terrifyingly strict adult. Despite their seeming stereotypes, each character is far more complex.

What Frindle becomes, finally, is a story about how school, language, family, and even society as a whole exercise power and the various roles individuals play within a power structure. Some rebel, some oppress, some are ignorant of their role in the larger game, and some are completely aware. There is a tug of war over who will maintain control, and it all eventually comes down to what you call a "frindle."

Extended Summary

The first chapter of Frindle describes Nick Allen's first acts of creative rebellion. Chapter One tells how he transformed Mrs. Deaver's third-grade classroom into a tropical paradise, complete with sand, and how he disrupted Mrs. Avery's fourth-grade class by chirping like a red-winged blackbird. These experiences set up the expectation that Nick will always find a way to get around teachers and their attempts to control the classroom.

However, that all changes in Chapter Two when Nick gets to fifth grade and has Mrs. Granger for language arts. While she was known to have a fine sense of humor, Mrs. Granger is legendary at Lincoln Elementary for three things: her strictness, her high standards, and her love of language. She sends a letter to all parents letting them know they had to have a good dictionary at home. While the other teachers start the school year by just letting the kids chat, Mrs. Granger puts them to work right away. Nick tries to disrupt the first class by asking a "thought-grenade" question about where all the words in the dictionary come from, only to have it backfire when Mrs. Granger assigns him an oral report on the subject.

While researching where words come from, Nick hatches a new plan to disrupt class. He makes his report extra long and incorporates reading a tough article from the dictionary out loud, thus whiling away most of the class period. Mrs. Granger eventually shuts him down, but Nick tries to disrupt things again by asking who decides which words mean what. Mrs. Granger tells Nick that he does—that people do.

This sparks another rebellion. As Nick is walking with his friend Janet Fisk, she finds a pen. Spontaneously, Nick calls it a "frindle." He gets his friend to help him, and they all visit the local store and ask for pens by asking for frindles. Once they establish the word there, Nick stages an event to use it in Mrs. Granger's class, asking a friend for a frindle. The kids say "frindle" instead of "cheese" when they are getting their school pictures taken. Mrs. Granger imposes a rule forbidding the use of "frindle," and requiring anyone who uses the word to stay after...

(The entire section is 881 words.)