Animal Fantasy at its Finest stopped to think what it might be like to experience STARS for the first time?  Or GRASS?  Or SOAP?  Or CHOCOLATE?  Well, Young Fredle is about a young mouse who experiences all of it.  After a close call with a peppermint patty and a bad stomach ache, this mouse is pushed out to live on his own away from the burrow he always knew and loved.  The Missus of the house, saving his life, decides to take him outside the house to live near the lattice wall.  What Fredle doesn’t know is that danger lurks around every corner—falcons, raccoons, rivers, snakes, and worst of all, barn cats.

I love everything about this book, but what struck me was Cynthia Voigt’s amazing talent for describing things Young Fredle is seeing for the first time.  Without knowing the name for things and not ever having seen them before—things like the the sun or ice cream, for example—the reader is challenged to think of things from a mouse’s point of view.  How could a mouse comprehend the phases of the moon?  Or how would he know the difference between right and left? Voigt’s language and details paint the perfect picture in your head.  It’s a beautiful story to read, and, if I may say, an even better story to listen on audiobook.  It did win an honor Odyssey award, after all.

Young Fredle isn’t all about the language.  The characters are pretty fantastic, too.  All the different animals depicted in this story are true to form–the rambunctious dog Sadie, the raucous and mischievous raccoon gang, and the crafty cat, Patches.  Fredle meets many friends and foes along the way, nearly evading disaster at nearly every turn.  My favorite character is, of course, Fredle.  You wouldn’t think that a mouse could have such depth. And by the end of the story, Fredle is not the same.  He can even tell himself.  His adventures and experiences have shaped him into a new mouse—a mouse who is not afraid of a little adventure, a mouse who learns to speak his mine, a mouse who no longer abide by the rules once set for him by his parents.  I think at its heart, this story is a coming-of-age story.  Fredle was once naïve and a follower, but at the end of the story, he makes his own rules.  He creates his own family.  He finds his own meaning of the word home.

Young Fredle is a wonderful story, and would work great as a read aloud for Grades 2 and 3, too.  And do NOT miss the audiobook.  The Who-Hahs are my favorite part.

Renee Grassi, Head of Children’s Services

Glencoe Public Library in  Glencoe, Illinois

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