No Register post today, while I get caught up on a thing or two. In the mean time, a quick reading recommendation. We’ve been listening to an audiobook of Freddy the Detective by Walter R. Brooks in the car, and it is ridiculously entertaining. (The link is to the print version of the book; there are links to the audio version and other formats if you click through.)
The kids ask to hear it over and over again (it’s a full-length book, 270 pages), but I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. The plot moves along nicely and has structure and logic, but you can drop in at any time and be amused by the nutty little descriptions and anecdotes that fill the story. I laugh every time we get to the moment when Freddy the Pig realizes that Mrs. Wiggins (who is a cow, and more sensible than the other cows, Mrs. Wogus and Mrs. Wurzburger, but still a cow) has been contributing to the newest problem on Mr. Bean’s farm, which is that their new jail has become a little too popular:
You have probably never seen a cow blush. And indeed, the sight is unusual. There are two reasons for this. One is that cows are a very simple people, who do whatever they feel like doing and never realize that sometimes they ought to be embarrassed. You might think they lack finer feelings. And in a way they do. They are not sensitive. But they are kind and good-natured, and if sometimes they seem rude, it is only due to their rather clumsy thoughtlessness. The other reason is that cows’ faces are not built for blushing. But as Mrs. Wiggins was so talented above her sisters in other directions, it is not to be marveled at that she could blush very handsomely. Her flush deepened as Freddy spoke. “Why, I– now that you speak of it,” she stammered, “I see that you’re right, but — well, Freddy — land’s sakes — I might as well confess it to you, I got to feeling sorry for those prisoners myself yesterday, especially those two goats. It seemed such a pity that they couldn’t be jumping round in the hills instead of sweltering in that hot barn. And I went out and brought them a nice bunch of thistles for their supper.” Freddy frowned. “That’s just it!” he exclaimed. “That’s just it. Sentimentality, that’s what’s going to ruin our jail. I did think, Mrs. W., that you had more sense.” The cow looked a little angry. “If I knew what you were talking about,” she said stiffly, “perhaps I might agree with you.” “Being sentimental?” said Freddy. “I’ll tell you what it is. It’s going round looking for something or someone to cry over, just for the fun of crying. You knew you weren’t doing those goats any good. You just wanted to have a good time feeling sorry.” The nice thing about Mrs. Wiggins was that she always admitted it when she was wrong. She did so now after she thought about it for a few minutes. “I guess you’re right, Freddy. I won’t do it again. . . “
Brooks fills his Freddy books with fully-realized animal characters — all believable, and most immensely likable. Once you meet them, you will never forget Uncle Wesley, the pompous duck, and his easily-impressed nieces, Alice and Emma; the stout-hearted but sarcastic cat Jinx, the vicious rats, the emotionally fragile rabbits, the malicious fly, Zero, and dozens and dozens of others.
The human characters are also a hoot. Freddy first discovers a robber’s hideout when he sees the two outlaws taking turns on an old swing, trying to shoot bricks out of the chimney when they get high enough. And one robber is always knitting, and nagging the other one about not dressing warmly enough when he goes out robbing at night.
As you can see, the language is at a high level, but is wonderfully clear and lively. It’s full of ideas, but it never even comes close to being preachy. It’s an extraordinarily good-natured universe that these animals live in. My 3- and 5-year-old kids seem to follow the plot perfectly well, and the older kids (girls and boys) are as amused and entertained as I am.
There are 26 Freddy the Pig books in all! Do check them out — I can’t imagine anyone not liking Freddy the Pig and his friends. If you can get your hands on the audio version, we think narrator John McDonough does a great job of changing his voice to bring out the various characters.