Thursday, August 14, 2014

I, Freddy

I, Freddy
Dietolf Reiche/Joe Cepeda Illustrator
Translated from German by John Brownjohn
Scholastic 2003  203 pgs
Grades 3-5
Animal Fantasy

Freddy is a little golden hamster who want more out of life.  Precocious and sensible, he manages to charm a nice man into buying him, thus securing his freedom from the pet store.  The man presents him as a present to his daughter, a young girl named Sophie, with whom Freddy immediately falls in hamster love.  Sophie is learning to read and Freddy, hanging out with her at her desk, begins to pick it up himself, opening up a whole new world.  The problem with Sophie's house, however, is the presence of hamster-hating "Mom".  Once Dad is away, Mom insists that Freddy must go, persuading family friend Mr. John to take him.  At first Mr. John's house is torture, with two smelly guinea pigs and an old tom cat.  Eventually, Freddy and the other animals strike up an understanding, which blossoms into friendship.  The cat, Sir William, supports his new friend's desire to read and helps him to obtain reading material.  All is well until Sophie gets permission to take Freddy back.  Once at Sophie's, Freddy concocts a plot to escape back to Mr. John's house and his new friends, where he discovers a way to communicate to Mr. John, improving life for all the animals in his abode.

Freddy is a charmer.  Kids will fall in love with him, even if they aren't animal lovers.  The plot keeps moving and action and humor abound.My only complaint is that the book initially disses guinea pigs, but the author redeems himself in the end by having Freddy overcome his prejudices.  I, Freddy is a perfect book for reluctant readers.  There is a lot of dialog, helping it to read quickly, with generous margins and a cartoon illustration on ever other page.  This is the perfect book to give to children who don't think they like to read.  It will appeal to both boys and girls.  Originally published in Germany, I was concerned that it would put American children off, but this is not the case.  The book could be set in any city and the plights of Freddy and his friends are universal. Freddy's adventures continue in four more books, so readers will have somewhere to go upon completion of this story.  Be warned; after reading I, Freddy your offspring may be begging for a golden hamster of their own.  Freddy certainly won me over!

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