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Not your average mad scientist.
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Franny K. Stein is a series of children's chapter books by Jim Benton, who also wrote Dear Dumb Diary. They focus on Franny, who at the tender age of seven is already a practicing mad scientist who turned her own room into her lab. With the aid of her assistant Igor, a dog, Franny is constantly performing experiments. Unfortunately, due to Franny's relative inexperience with life, she rarely thinks her experiments through. This usually leads to all kinds of trouble, which Franny and Igor then have to fix.

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Books in the series:

  1. Lunch Walks Among Us (2003)
  2. Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid (2004)
  3. The Invisible Fran (2004)
  4. The Fran That Time Forgot (2005)
  5. Frantastic Voyage (2005)
  6. The Fran With Four Brains (2006)
  7. The Frandidate (2008)
  8. Bad Hair Day (2019)
  9. Recipe for Disaster (2020)

This book series contains examples of the following tropes.

  • An Aesop: Every book has one.
    • Lunch Walks Among Us - You don't have to change who you are to make friends.
    • Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid - The people who love you will do anything to help you with your problems.
    • The Invisible Fran - There's nothing wrong with your peers having different hobbies from yours, and there can be situations where their passions could prove helpful.
    • The Fran That Time Forgot - Don't hold grudges over something as trivial as people laughing at your middle name.
    • Frantastic Voyage - Television isn't inherently bad, but you shouldn't let it distract you from what's important.
    • Advertisement:
    • The Fran With Four Brains - Don't worry about being the best at everything. We all have our limits.
    • The Frandidate - Telling the truth is better than manipulating everyone with lies.
    • Bad Hair Day - You don't need pretty hair or makeup to be beautiful.
    • Recipe for Disaster - Arts and music are just as important as science.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Franny's dog Igor has intelligence comparable to a monkey or an ape.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Franny's little brother Freddy tends to annoy her. Frantastic Voyage even describes him as a pest.
  • Antagonist Title: The seventh book's title, The Frandidate, refers to a shape-shifting suit Franny made to run for class president that eventually gains a mind of its own and attempts to use its powers of persuasion to manipulate everyone into electing it King of the World.
  • Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: The titular creation of The Frandidate is a living suit Franny creates that enables the wearer to transform into whatever the person looking at them likes.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In Lunch Walks Among Us, when the children are panicking over the terror of the Pumpkin-Crab Monster, three different children each give a different opinion of what they need for the situation.
    "We need a fireman", one girl said.
    "We nee a superhero", one boy said.
    "We need dry pants", said you-know-who.note 
  • Art Initiates Life: The titular Cupid in Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid came into being because Franny's dog Igor accidentally brought an image of Cupid to life with Franny's Manifester, a machine that can create living three-dimensional copies of pictures, and made the Cupid bigger with Franny's Biggerizer.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: The last illustration of Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid ends with Franny hugging her dog Igor as he takes a bite from the chocolate-covered cherry she enlarged with her Biggerizer. This disregards that in real life, chocolate is often toxic to dogs.
  • Artistic License – Education: Franny somehow doesn't get in trouble for bringing her dog Igor to school in Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid and The Frandidate.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: As the title may indicate, Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid had Franny fight a gigantic cherub.
  • Audio Adaptation: There are audiobook versions of the books produced by Recorded Books and narrated by Michele O'Medlin.
  • Bad Future:
    • The Fran That Time Forgot had Franny time travel to the future after changing her middle name to Kaboom out of curiosity at what she'll be like when she's older. Much to her horror, she finds her teenage self creating an army of elephant monsters to terrorize the town as payback for everyone laughing at her middle name, since changing it from Kissypie to Kaboom didn't make her middle name any less embarrassing.
    • Franny saves the day in Recipe for Disaster by using her Visualizer Helmet to show her dog Igor, Mona, Vincent and the other kids at school what will happen if they don't stop eating the Muffin Man's muffins, all of them seeing that their future selves will be miserable due to their lives being ruined by their addiction to the muffins. The Muffin Man himself also changes his ways when the helmet is used on him and he sees how unhappy everyone will be if he doesn't stop making muffins.
  • Baleful Polymorph: In The Fran With Four Brains, the third Franbot is equipped with a Food-Ray Blaster, which it uses to turn Igor into a tuna fish sandwich and later plans to use to do the same to Franny, her family and the rest of humanity.
  • Banana Peel: While in the Bad Future in The Fran That Time Forgot, Franny trips up one of her teenage self's elephant monsters with the help of a banana peel that had been left there from her years of neglecting to clean her room.
  • Black Comedy: Frantastic Voyage has some of this when Franny decides against solutions to the problem of Igor swallowing her doomsday device, rejecting them for their ineffectiveness rather than because of the risk of harming Igor.
    I could put Igor in a rocket and shoot it to the moon. But the blast would destroy the moon.
    I could encase Igor in a giant concrete block... But the explosion will be much too powerful to contain.
    I could perform emergency surgery. But one of the tools could make the bomb go off...
  • Brainy Baby: It is stated in The Fran That Time Forgot that Franny was a mad scientist ever since she was a baby. When she first travels back in time to change her middle name, we even see Baby Franny creating a Frankenstein monster teddy bear.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • Franny is described as seeing snakes, spiders and things that looked like they were half-snake and half-spider when she first enters her house in the Bad Future in The Fran That Time Forgot.
    • In The Fran With Four Brains, Igor's methods of getting Franny to laugh include juggling chainsaws, alligator wrestling and wrestling alligators with chainsaws.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    • One chapter in The Fran With Four Brains describes Franny as enjoying the following typical kid things: playing with her toys, reading books and bringing a monster to life through the application of a jillion volts of electricity.
    • It is mentioned in The Frandidate that Franny's favorite subjects aside from electric power are chemistry, nuclear power and brain removal.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The first book has a running gag involving a kid at Franny's school who constantly wets his pants. The last instance has him wetting himself when the children look on in horror as Franny creates the Lunch Meat Creature.
  • Butt Biter: In Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid, Igor saves Franny's life by biting the giant Cupid's buttock when he was about to shoot her with one of his arrows.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Recipe for Disaster at one point has Franny discuss working on a robot that smells burps and a helmet that enables people to see the future. Both inventions prove helpful for her later, with the burp-smelling robot assisting her in tracking down Igor and her friends when they've all disappeared and the future-viewing helmet enabling her to get her friends and Igor to snap out of their addiction to the Muffin Man's muffins.
  • Child Prodigy: Saying that Franny is smart for her age would be a very big understatement. She builds complex machines and has demonstrated expert knowledge in chemistry, robotics and bioengineering, and she's only seven years old.
  • Comedic Spanking: In The Frandidate, Franny first hears about the school running an election for class president and starts sketching ideas for a dungeon she could build at school for punishing people who disobey her in the event that she wins. The illustration shows a drawing of Franny grinning evilly while standing next to a machine spanking someone.
  • Continuity Cavalcade:
    • When Franny starts to travel back in time in The Fran That Time Forgot, she witnesses the Pumpkin-Crab Monster, the 50-Ft. Cupid and the two-headed robot from the previous three books.
    • In Bad Hair Day, Franny's mom asks her daughter if she knows anything about the giant pig-like monsters (created from Franny's pigtails coming to life and engorging themselves on Franny's growth formula). Franny answers that of course she knows about this because rampaging creatures are her thing. The illustration shows Franny remembering the Pumpkin-Crab Monster, the 50-Ft. Cupid, the two-headed robot and the Frandidate.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of The Fran With Four Brains depicts Franny being menaced by three brains with eyes and her pigtails, when the actual story is about Franny creating a trio of robot doubles of herself that end up going berserk.
  • Creepy Child: Franny pretty much lives this. She routinely has bats in her room. No matter how many times her mom gets rid of them, they just keep reappearing. Franny doesn't get them form anywhere, they just show up, because they like her. In the first book Franny actually tries to get away from this, to fit in. In the end, however, the other students learn to accept Franny for who she is, though they're still kinda scared of her.
  • Cruel Elephant: The Fran That Time Forgot features a Bad Future where a teenage Franny has created an army of five-eyed elephant monsters to get back at everyone who laughed at her middle name.
  • Cuteness Proximity: In Frantastic Voyage, Igor convinces Franny not to destroy the television she built to keep him busy when she didn't want him bothering her by changing the channel to a show about baby spiders, which Franny finds very adorable.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Franny gets a double dose in Frantastic Voyage when trying to deactivate the doomsday device after shrinking down and traveling inside Igor. She tries to use her miniaturized screwdriver to undo the screw in the doomsday device, only to realize that the screwdriver is now too small to unfasten the screw. She tries to tell Igor to swallow a regular-size screwdriver, but then finds that Igor can't hear her because her shrunken state has made her voice inaudible.
  • Disney Death: After Igor is eaten by one of the two giant monsters that were once Franny's pigtails in Bad Hair Day, Franny believes that Igor has died. Later, Igor snips his way out of the pigtail monster that ate him and is shown to have snipped off his own fur to prevent getting swallowed again.
  • Don't Try This at Home: In the first book, there's an amusing disclaimer given in the "Franny's Book of Monster Making" section.
    WARNING— We assume no responsibility if you actually create a real monster and it destroys your city and eats your stuff.
  • Dr. Fakenstein: Franny K. Stein's full name is clearly based on Dr. Frankenstein.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: It is revealed in the book The Fran That Time Forgot that Franny's middle initial stands for Kissypie, an Affectionate Nickname her father gave to her mother back when they were dating. She is so embarrassed by it that she goes back in time to the day she was born to change it. She gets the idea from her newborn self to make her middle name Kaboom instead, but everybody laughs at that too.
  • Eureka Moment: There are several occasions where Franny gets inspiration from noticing her surroundings or remembering something she was told earlier.
    • In Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid, Franny remembers her brother Freddy snarking that she should use a reverse setting on the Biggerizer to shrink her mouth and gets the idea to enlarge herself to take down the giant Cupid.
    • In The Invisible Fran, Franny watches her chameleon use its camouflage ability to sneak up on Igor, which inspires her to create an invisibility formula and use it to whisper ideas into her friends' heads to lure them into pursuing mad science like she does.
    • In The Fran That Time Forgot, Franny becomes enraged when everyone laughs at her middle name after her Time Warp Dessert Plate wins the science fair. She was just about to retaliate to the laughter when it occurs to her that she can retool the Time Warp Dessert Plate so she could go back in time and change her middle name.
    • The Frandidate has Franny try to think of a way she can make everyone want to elect her class president after being told by Miss Shelly that her best chance at success is convincing her classmates that she's the best person to vote for. She ends up creating the Frandidate suit after observing Igor give her her stuffed bat Snookyfangs before she even asked for it, accidentally sitting on her chameleon because it blended into the seat of her chair, seeing her parrot mimic her squeal from sitting on her chameleon and reaching the conclusion that she must be able to know exactly what her potential voters want, to take on the form of whatever they'd find appealing and to be able to tell them exactly what they want to hear.
  • Everyone Has Standards: As big an aficionado of mad science as she is, even Franny has her limits. When meeting her teenage self in The Fran That Time Forgot, she is quite disturbed to see her future self become evil and fixated on terrorizing everyone with an army of elephant monsters over still being laughed at because of her middle name.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: One of the lessons Franny is stuck with in The Fran With Four Brains that she builds the Franbots to take off her hands is playing bagpipes. She eventually tricks the bagpipe-playing Franbot into destroying itself by convincing it that there is such a thing as a J note, resulting in the Franbot blowing the bagpipes too hard and forcing its insides out.
  • Fallen Cupid: Played for laughs in Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid, where Franny initially interprets Cupid as being a demon who uses his arrows to skewer people.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: Frantastic Voyage has Franny having to travel inside Igor in order to save his life when he eats a doomsday device.
  • Finger Wag: Igor wags his finger at the television Franny made for him at the end of Frantastic Voyage when Franny tells him that he shouldn't let commercials trick him into wanting stuff.
  • First Day of School Episode: Lunch Walks Among Us is mainly about Franny's experiences at attending a new school.
  • Foreshadowing: An early chapter in The Fran That Time Forgot mentions that the only thing more dangerous than a mad scientist is an angry mad scientist. This foreshadows how Franny's efforts in changing her Embarrassing Middle Name using time travel results in creating a Bad Future where her teenage self gets back at everyone who laughed at her middle name by terrorizing the world with an army of elephant monsters.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Characters in this book series are drawn with four fingers rather than five.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: The first book has Franny create a Lunch Meat Creature by sewing together cold cuts from the other children's lunches. For all intents and purposes, the Lunch Meat Creature is a Frankenstein monster.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In The Fran With Four Brains, the illustration to the end of the fourth chapter shows Franny smiling and walking away after the success of her Time Warp Dessert Plate, with her dog Igor in the background desperately trying to keep a snake from eating the slice of cake that Franny restored with the Time Warp Dessert Plate after she devoured the cake.
    • An illustration in The Frandidate shows Franny talking with her teacher Miss Shelly while the background shows Igor being tossed into the air by the cat/clown monster Franny created outside the classroom window.
  • Future Me Scares Me: The teenage version of Franny that she encounters in the Bad Future in The Fran That Time Forgot is evil and has plans to terrorize everyone with an army of elephant monsters, as a result of Franny changing her middle name to Kaboom still resulting in everyone laughing at her when her middle name is revealed and Franny not getting that she shouldn't be that upset about being laughed at.
  • Giant Spider: In Frantastic Voyage, Franny K. Stein is shown to have a giant spider named Snookums.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Franny has pigtails to show she's a little girl.
  • Gluttonous Pig: Franny's pigtails come to life in Bad Hair Day after gorging themselves on her growth formula, transforming into giant pig monsters and going on a rampage devouring everything with hair in sight.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In Recipe for Disaster, Franny helps Mona and Vincent at the school bake sale by creating a robotic baker called the Muffin Man, who she teaches to bake very delicious muffins. The muffins prove successful enough to secure funding for the school's art and music classes, but are so tasty that everyone at the school becomes addicted to the muffins to the point that they abandon their other pursuits just so they can eat more muffins.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: When Igor accidentally uses an X-ray projector on her in Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid, Franny is shown to wear panties with bats on them.
  • Heinz Hybrid: Franny's dog Igor is described as being part Labrador, part poodle, part Chihuahua, part beagle, part spaniel, part shepherd and part some weasely thing that isn't even a dog.
  • Hollywood Chameleons: Franny is shown to own a chameleon capable of turning completely invisible in The Invisible Fran. She ends up deriving a potion from it which she uses to turn invisible so she can whisper ideas to her classmates in hopes of getting them interested in mad science.
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: Recipe for Disaster has the premise of Franny using the school's old furnace to create a Muffin Man robot and teaching him to make delicious muffins. The muffins prove to be so yummy that the entire school becomes addicted to them and they start forgoing their usual interests just so they can eat more muffins.
  • Invisible Main Character: The Invisible Fran has Franny use a potion to become invisible and attempt to make her classmates more interested in mad science by whispering to them suggestions on how they can improve the two-headed robot she's working on.
  • Ironic Echo: When justifying her decision to time-travel to the day she was born to change her middle name in The Fran That Time Forgot, Franny tells her infant self "The most important thing is that nobody will laugh at us again. There is nothing worse than being laughed at." When visiting the Bad Future and discovering that changing her middle name did nothing to change people laughing at it, Franny is told the exact same quote by her teenage self when she rationalizes why she's creating an army of elephant monsters to get back at everyone who laughed at her middle name.
  • Landslide Election: Exaggerated in The Frandidate, where Franny's Frandidate suit manages to win over everyone in school to the point that they don't even bother with an election and just make Franny class president on the spot.
  • Long Pants: As shown in the illustrations, it's not clear where Franny's pants end and her shoes begin.
  • Loud of War: In The Invisible Fran, Franny suggests to her classmate Lawrence that he could adapt his accordion-playing skills to mad science by using a satellite to bother everyone with the sound of his accordion.
  • Mad Scientist: Franny is a young girl who conducts deranged experiments.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Franny has her own laboratory in her room, where she conducts all sorts of experiments.
  • Monster of the Week: A lot of the books feature Franny having to fight a monster or villain whose existence is at least indirectly her fault.
  • Mummy: It is revealed in The Fran With Four Brains that Franny once created a mummy for extra credit on studying Ancient Egypt. The mummy ate the custodian and Franny was told to get the custodian out.
  • My Future Self and Me: The Fran That Time Forgot has Franny meet herself as a baby and as a teenager via time travel.
  • Mysterious Teacher's Lounge: When first going to school under the effects of her invisibility potion in The Invisible Fran, Franny takes advantage of her invisibility by using it to see exactly what the faculty members are doing when children aren't around. She peeks inside the teacher's lounge and sees the teachers dancing.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: In The Frandidate, Franny's first attempt at making people want her to be elected class president has her bring to school a monster who is a cat/clown hybrid with soccer balls for eyes who coughs up puppies and has cake coming out of its ears.
  • Non-Mammalian Hair: The Fran With Four Brains shows that Franny has bearded slugs that she shaves daily.
  • Nose Shove: In The Fran That Time Forgot, Franny frees herself from one of her teenage future self's elephant monsters by shoving cheese up the creature's trunk after ordering her voice-activated cheese cannon to shoot some cheddar.
  • Obliviously Evil: The Muffin Man robot in Recipe for Disaster sees no wrong in continuously making more muffins and making his customers help him make more muffins. When Franny uses the future-viewing helmet on him to see what will happen if he continues doing what he's doing, he is quite devastated to see society crumbling down when he was made to promise that he'd never do anything destructive and to make the best thing he possibly could.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: In The Invisible Fran, it is mentioned that Franny once brought a garden gnome to life, resulting in her family having to lock themselves in the bathroom until the police came.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: Many of the books' titles spoof movie or book titles.
  • Prehensile Hair: Bad Hair Day has Franny create a formula that enables her to change the shape of her hair and control her pigtails like tentacles. The pigtails end up becoming sentient and start detaching themselves from Franny's head before engorging themselves on the formula, mutating into giant hairy pig monsters that then go on a rampage devouring everything with hair they can find.
  • Protagonist Title: Franny K. Stein is the main character of the book series and her name is the book series' title.
  • Pumpkin Person: The Pumpkin-Crab Monster from the first book, who was a crab monster with a pumpkin for a head.
  • Ret-Gone: In The Fran That Time Forgot, Franny prevents the Bad Future where her teenage self overruns the town with an army of elephant monsters by simply accepting that she can't hold a grudge over everyone laughing at her middle name.
  • Right Behind Me: When gloating about only having to take down one more Franbot in The Fran With Four Brains, Franny ends up turning around to see the last Franbot glaring at her.
  • Robot Hair: The Franbots in The Fran With Four Brains have triangular pigtails to complete their resemblance to Franny.
  • Robot Me: In The Fran With Four Brains, Franny builds three Franbots to free her from her bagpipe lessons, soccer practice and gourmet cooking classes, only for her three robot duplicates to go crazy and attempt to turn everyone into tuna fish sandwiches.
  • Scenery Censor: The titular Cupid in Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid is naked, but since this is a children's book series, his penis is covered up by the quiver for his arrows and a tree.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Franny's dog Igor is an important character, but isn't introduced until the second book Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid.
  • Stable Time Loop: In The Fran That Time Forgot, Franny ends up inspiring herself into becoming a mad scientist when she uses time travel to alter her middle name, as she took the time to draw extra eyes on the elephant doll her infant self had and the modified elephant doll sparked Baby Franny's interest in mad science.
  • Shout-Out: For starters, Franny's full name is a Punny Name on Frankenstein.
    • The meat monster she makes in the first book even looks like the monster from the above-mentioned novel.
    • Also in the first book, Franny making a potion to make herself look sweeter can be seen as an inverted version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • Stock "Yuck!": The Fran That Time Forgot reveals that one of Franny's experiments had her inventing broccoli that ate itself so that children didn't have to eat it.
  • Super Window Jump: The Pumpkin-Crab Monster in the first book jumps through a window after kidnapping Ms. Shelly.
  • Supreme Chef: Franny is a fairly capable cook. She takes cooking classes in her spare time and routinely cooks gourmet dishes for herself.
  • Tear Off Your Face: One of the mishaps from Igor screwing up Franny's experiments in Frantastic Voyage has Franny's Automatic Face Scrubber tear her face off. Being a mad scientist, she had no problem surgically reattaching her face after the accident occurred.
  • Time Travel: Traveling through time is the central theme of The Fran That Time Forgot, where Franny invents a Time Warp Dessert Plate to disprove the saying "You can't have your cake and eat it, too", then retools the device so she can go back in time to the day she was born in order to change her Embarrassing Middle Name.
  • Toxic Waste Can Do Anything: The first book has a Pumpkin-Crab Monster created when unstable industrial waste was dumped into a trash can along with Franny's discarded lunch of crab ravioli with pumpkin sauce as well as some gum and old gym shoes.
  • Unwanted Assistance: In Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid, Franny is initially bothered by her new lab assistant Igor because the dog keeps trying to help her with her experiments when she doesn't require his assistance and ends up screwing things up.
  • Valentine's Day Episode: Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid was a Valentine's Day story and had Franny's efforts to understand the holiday inadvertently loosing a gigantic cherub upon the city.
  • Vicious Vac: A past experiment of Franny's mentioned in The Invisible Fran had Franny increase the vacuum cleaner's power, which resulted in her little brother Freddy being turned inside out and her mother making her promise to never do that again.
  • Visual Pun: Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid has Franny get annoyed when she tries to talk about one of her inventions over the phone to a friend from school named Percy, only for Percy to babble about how much he likes corn chips. Franny imagines Percy having a safety pin for a head (i.e. a pinhead).
  • Wedgie: A chapter in Frantastic Voyage is devoted to Franny worrying about what would happen if any of her ideas fell into the wrong hands. One concern she has is that an evil scientist could discover her plans for remote control underwear and use it to give wedgies to everyone on Earth.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: Franny's Bad Future self Teen Franny in The Fran That Time Forgot, who is creating an army of elephant monsters to get back at everyone who made fun of her Embarrassing Middle Name all because Franny changing her middle name to Kaboom still resulted in people laughing at her and because her telling her infant self that there's nothing worse than being laughed at has resulted in the incident where everyone laughed at her middle name affecting her worse than it did in the timeline where her middle name was Kissypie.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: In Frantastic Voyage, Igor accidentally eats a doomsday device Franny built that is powerful enough to destroy most of the Earth, requiring Franny to save the day by traveling inside Igor in order to deactivate the doomsday device.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Franny's hair is purple.

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