"Frankie Diamond is Robbing Us Blind" comes from a collection by Graham Salisbury entitled Island Boyz, in which he writes about the experience of growing up in Hawaii. Though other stories in the collection are interesting, this one caught my eye especially because I recognized the story’s title character from the Calvin Coconut series. In fact, the ShortBoyz identified at the start of this story are all Calvin Coconut characters, as are almost all the other characters who appear in it. The only differences are that the characters are older in this story than in the series, and Calvin isn’t named Calvin, but Joey.
As in the Calvin Coconut books, Frankie Diamond is a notorious bully who picks on kids who are younger, smaller, and weaker than he is, in order to steal from them or just intimidate them. Frankie really comes to life in this story, as he gives the ShortBoyz new, patronizing nicknames, and at the same tries to convince Darcy, Joey’s little sister, to trust him. A character named Lynnette also makes things interesting when she agrees to defend Joey and his friends from Frankie, but winds up actually starting to like him instead. Though it’s not exactly the same, this plot is quite similar to events that happen in the newest Calvin Coconut book, Rocket Ride.
I think the best thing about this story is that it gives the reader insight into Salisbury’s development of Calvin Coconut as a character. It’s interesting to think about and discuss the changes in Joey as he becomes Calvin, and to look at the ways this story foreshadows certain events in the Calvin Coconut series, but leaves out the possibility of others. It’s also a great study in using local color in dialogue. I could hear nearly every nasty word that came out of Frankie’s mouth, thanks to Salisbury’s judicious use of slang and dialect.
Use this story to open up a discussion about bullying, to get kids hooked on Salisbury’s writing, and to share Hawaiian culture and language with kids who have never been exposed to island life.
I borrowed Island Boyz from my local public library.