Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Peppermint Patties Are Real Trouble

Without a doubt readers acquainted with Babymouse, Poppy, Ralph S. Mouse, Celeste, Despereaux, Stuart Little, the characters created by Kevin Henkes and Brian Jacques have a new friend and hero in Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt.   

Fredle is a member of one of several families living in the walls behind the pantry in the farm house of Missus, Mister, the baby, two dogs, Sadie and Angus and one very sneaky, very quiet cat, Patches. Fredle is a mouse; not a cellar mouse or an attic mouse but an inside kitchen mouse.  Specific rules and traditions govern the activities of kitchen mice.  Fredle's questioning nature coupled with his cousin, Axle's adventurous spirit and the tantalizing aroma of a peppermint pattie lead the two into serious trouble.

What's a mouse to do when he finds himself on the outside?  No one has ever been on the outside and returned to tell about it.  That's just what Fredle yearns to do in the worst way; get back to his family. 

Wishing his life to be as before doesn't make it happen.  Between wishing and doing Fredle observes such visions of beauty, encounters creatures false, true, wry of humor and terrifying and learns so many new words that he is able to put his acute loneliness aside sometimes, just for a little while.

The black air above him was filled with white specks that winked and blinked and trembled.  They gave no light.  Instead, they sparkled, brightly.  Fredle had never seen anything like it before, but it wasn't frightening.  It was too beautiful to scare him.  His eyes wanted to keep on looking up at all the white brightness, to discover if there was any design in them, to see if they moved, to wonder about them.

Between adventures on the outside Fredle has more than enough time to reflect on his life.  Much like his human counterparts he is growing and developing his own life philosophy. 

What was Fredle supposed to do about all this changing that was being forced on him?  He guessed that all he could do was enjoy the good things and endure the bad things....And since the brightnesses were very good things, Fredle stayed where he was, staring up into the dark air, where they glittered and glimmered.

Seeing the world through Fredle's eyes, readers will remember the glee of discovery, of seeing something for the first time which since has been taken for granted.  This description of flowers is especially memorable.  It depicts the curious soul of our tiny hero.

He looked up at the smooth-sided cups and then his eyes ran down the long green stems, then they flew up on the winglike dark green leaves.  Did those cups catch the rain when it fell?  he wondered.  Were they there for the humans to bend and drink out of?  He thought that the water held in those cups, especially the white ones, would have a power no other water could match.

When Fredle is captured by the Rowdy Boys, a crew of rascally raccoons, readers will be glued to the pages wondering as does Fredle when his final hour will be.  But the young mouse is becoming more "streetwise" carefully piecing together each new idea, new piece of information and new task conquered to reach his goal. 

Louise Yates, award-winning illustrator and author of Dog Loves Books, uses pen, pencil and paint so well that the pictures scattered about this tale make Fredle and the cast of characters even more endearing (or in the case of cats, raccoons and snakes more wicked ) to us all.

Cynthia Voigt through her narration and Louise Yates through her art change our perspective of this world in which we live, give us joy in the moment, heart-pounding panic and the sense of freedom that comes with being true to yourself.  Young Fredle is a tale to be savored whether read individually or shared with others.

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