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Frank W. Bosworth

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Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn
by Frank W. Bosworth   

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Young Adult/Teen

Publisher:  Trafford ISBN-10:  1412013054 Type: 


Copyright:  July 6, 2006 ISBN-13:  9781412013055

Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn: F.W.Bosworth: Books

Between the drama and the comedy dwells the dramedy. A coming of age slice of a farcical life.

Set in New England’s South Shore in the late1950’s, 'Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn' is the story of blue-collar New Englanders and their struggles to survive daily, the neighbors, the yearly invasion of summer folks, the Avon lady, and ultimately, each other.

Written from the perspective of a precocious boy’s sheltered upbringing, this is a tale of lies, half-truths, outrageous antics of whacky neighbors and relatives.

'Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn' is chockfull with humor, heartbreak and joy.

Characters, to mention a few: there’s the li’l 'black' dad, physically paying for years of foundry work, crafting ornamental reindeers.  The James Dean-styled 'Uncle' who lands in prison, then the wrestling ring with Fabulous Beulah, the Woman’s Heavyweight Champ.  A roly-poly, four-foot ten neighbor-lady, and her stick thin, six-foot eight husband who, when standing back-to-back, resemble a lower case 'b'.

A sordid game of 'One-Up' plays out in dance classes, gossip sessions, and on the neighborhood’s dusty road.  And, as hilarious a joke telling, wise-cracking grandmother, who has ever made it to print.

The boy desperately seeks security, love, and approval, yet longs to get away, out from under his confusing and cantankerous neighbors and relatives.  He is awed and startled by revelations: finding out his 'black' dad really isn’t, his 'Uncle', his only life-line and supporter isn’t, that his wicked, scheming, neighbor-lady in reality has the singing voice of a goddess, and how black paint, applied to your feet and ankles can, at a glance, pass for a pair of socks.

There’s a great neighborhood legal arson, pageants, plays, runaways, a priest, a prison, wrestling, a cataract horse, an Avon lady, a pair of speechless sisters, a hypochondriac mother, and a dog who, once buried, comes back to life.

'Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn' is what author, Frank W. Bosworth, best describes as a ‘dramedy’. 

Indeed, this is a quirky story about a life filled with drama, comedy and tragedy.


 Excerpts ~

 The "Great Gray Monster" had stood empty and spooky-looking for a very long time, sitting three house lots behind us. We lived in the other pauper's palace. The "Great White Elephant" towered in monumental tribute to the vast legion of do-it-yourselfers over many decades past.

 Whenever either house was sold it went for pennies on the dollar. Both needed major work. Major extensive structural work. Major expensive structural work. This, along with repairing, replacing, gutting, and finishing years of half-baked projects and half-assed outcomes by many past well-intentioned summer owners, would have cost a pretty penny to correct.

"Makes no sense throwing good money after bad. Don't much matter, we don't have either one," my dad would say. Then he'd grin, chuckle, cough, huck a louie, fart, and walk away. All at the same time.

I tried it once when I was seven and sprained my ankle. _____________________________________________

Downstairs was the kitchen sink, and upstairs a bathroom hand sink and an old "iron-claw" tub. Sunday night was bath night. This was the only night the tub was used, and even then never ever filled, because when filled to normal the water's weight made the old warped floorboards "pop" and "tic." My mother was convinced one day the tub would come crashing down into the living room and we would all drown. Not to mention the luckless soul sitting on the sofa, located directly beneath the tub, would be crushed. Getting ready for school on cool New England spring mornings, chilly falls, and bitterly cold winters, I would fill up the hand sink with hot water, fold my arms, immerse them, then plunge my face in. Not having a proper heating system in my year-round summer house, this was not so much to wash-up as it was to get warm.

"Freeze the brass off a bald monkey!" my dad would say on chilly mornings.

"Freeze the balls off a brass monkey!" he'd say in the winters deep-freeze.

I thought of this as blue-collar meteorology.


Both my dead-end street and my dead-end life were long in need of a blast of fresh air. A life altering, positive awakening, or a good swift kick in the pants. Either of them, it didn't matter, whichever came first.

I'd fantasize about some nice family moving into the Great Gray Monster, and they would be open to helping my mother handle her stress. They would have some kids. A couple of girls my sisters' age, a boy my age, and they would all be normal, and this would rub off on my family and make a difference.

Then overnight, like famine to feast, a whole lot more arrived in the vision of a badly bruised and battered Buick. Erwin stood 6'6" and weighed about 140 pounds. Geraldine was just under 5' and weighed about 180 pounds. Standing back-to-back I was struck by how much they resembled a lower case 'b'.


I was about to turn thirteen, my dad was about to turn white, and Grandma Millie had taken to telling Quasimodo jokes because of the growing hump on her back.

"Hey, bunghole, how does Quasimodo get a date on Saturday night?"

"I dunno," I grinned, playing along. "How does Quasimodo get a date on Saturday night?"

"Wanna hump?" And she'd smile that sweet, grandmotherly smile.


A few years back my grandmother Millie got quite sick. I don't know what was wrong. I overheard my mother on the phone say, "There is a chance she is not going to make it." Innocently, I asked my l'il black dad if I could dig out by the shed under the shade of the old elm tree.

"For what?"

"To bury Grandma Millie."

He grinned and said, "I don't see why not, boy. She ain't my mother."

That sounded like an OK to me.

The dig was going pretty well, til my mother asked, "What in the name of hell are you digging?"

With an achy back and sweaty brow, I said in fact, "Your mother's grave."

She dragged me outta that hole and smacked me from the backyard right on throught the porch screen and kitchen doors. My l'il black dad sat in his chair watching the Sox. I passed by him ducking and dodging every two out of three blows. He gestured to me as if to say, "Christ, boy, I didn't think you'd actually start diggin'!"

Professional Reviews

Get ready to laugh!
Rebeccasreads recommends NEVER PLAY LEAPFROG WITH A UNICORN as a total change of pace -- as in a non-stop stampede of naughty, heartbreaking & giggle-inducing dialogues & troubles.

Not sure if it's part memoir or wishful remembering, however, it is a mad rush of breathless scenes as seen through the eyes of the son of a foundry worker with quite a lot of profound insights skating on the thin ice of the insanity that afflicts dysfunctional families.

Wrap your mind around NEVER PLAY LEAPFROG WITH A UNICORN, & see if you can look at your own life, without laughing.

Not all books have to be serious, & this one could stand up as a routine at a comedy club.

Kathy Bates as mom and Steve Bouchemi as dad!
I proudly own four of these books. So well written, I saw it as a movie from first paragraph read. You must own this book before it becomes a movie, because I'm affraid the movie won't do it justice. Awesome job author!

It has been a long time since I have read something so touching. I did not know when to cry or laugh. I wish there was an emotion to do both at the same time. What a great book!!

A Hilarious and Thought Provoking Journey
For all of you who just skim reviews, I'm going to save you some time: Buy this book!

For the rest of you, here goes:

Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn is screamingly funny and achingly sad at times; often at the same time.

Despite being subject to the whims of life in a wildly dysfunctional and abusive home, the protagonist forges bravely forward, never whining, and always seeing the humor and absurdity in the ever-more outlandish situations fate and his family conspire to subject him too. This creates immense empathy with the protagonist in this 1st person POV memoir, and sympathy for his plight, allowing the reader to feel one is laughing with him, not at him.

So, if you want to read a work that will have you howling with laughter (even in public as this reviewer did in line at the DMV) but still provides you with a deep and thoughtful exploration the resilience of the human spirit, Never Play Leapfrog With A Unicorn is a book you must read.

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Reader Reviews for "Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn"

Reviewed by James Humperjohn 10/15/2008
Frank Bosworth’s “Unicorn” is a one-of-a-kind, self-portrait of a child’s coming grimly of age. Herein we encounter a comical parade of too many dysfunctional lives etched upon an appropriate canvas of weeping willow.

Sad, unrelentingly cruel, often artificially poignant, and carefully laced with an occasional heartfelt guffaw, “Unicorn” is not funny. There is nothing funny here. Rather, we are left with the poor visual of a small boy in an even smaller dinghy on a lonely beach with the sound of a single oar . . . rowing.

Happily, Bosworth survives all never whining with a loving twinkle in his one good eye. A worthy read, from the pen of a gifted writer. *****__J. M. Humperjohn
Reviewed by Jo-An Thomas 3/2/2008
I roared with laughter, cried tears of joy and sorrow and loved every minute of it! If you're looking for a fresh writing style and a really good story - don't miss this book.
Reviewed by Leissa Kalas 2/26/2008

Brilliantly written! I wasn't sure what to expect. I read 'My L'il Black Dad', the first chapter of 'Never Play Leapfrog with a Unicorn' and loved it so much I had to know the rest of the story. WOW! I had no idea it would be this powerful. It made me laugh and it made me cry. I think the humor was intricately interwoven into the parts that were too horrible to even imagine, so the fact that you were able to laugh was a nice relief from the saddening life and pain the author suffered. The author makes you feel at home-as if you can imagine being there even if you didn't grow up on the east coast. I thought it was brilliantly written and can't wait to read more!

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