Saturday, October 13, 2012

Middle-Grade Review: Young Fredle

It is easy to understand why Young Fredle by Cynthia Voight was named an Odyssey Honor Book for Excellence in Audiobook Production.  It is a warm, wonderful story, performed by a talented actress.  Though it is aimed squarely at middle-graders, it is so well done that parents will love it, too, making it perfect for family road trips!

The main character, Fredle, is a mouse, a house mouse to be more precise.  He lives behind the pantry walls in Mr. And Mrs.’s farmhouse with his large mouse family.  They live a quiet life, sleeping in communal nests during the day and cautiously foraging for food in the dark kitchen at night, though Fredle wishes he were braver, like his cousin Axle, and wonders what’s outside the world of the kitchen.  One night, Fredle and Axle find something strange and wonderful (a Peppermint Pattie!) on a top pantry shelf, and Fredle finds himself in a situation that requires all of his courage.

One thing leads to another, and Fredle ends up outside, alone for the first time in his young life.  He encounters all kinds of exciting new experiences but also many dangers – things he’s never even heard of like snakes and owls and raccoons.  Fredle is immersed in new things he doesn’t even know the name for, until a young mouse from a family of field mice befriends him and teaches him about things like grass and flowers and stars.  Fredle gets all the adventures he ever wanted and also has a chance to consider what home really means.

I know this sounds like a strange way to describe a novel about a mouse, but it really is a coming-of-age story.  While Fredle is out among friends and enemies of the outdoor world, he grows up.  He thinks about what is really important to him and makes some life-changing decisions that affect him as well as other mice.

Though a story told from a mouse’s perspective might get a bit gimmicky with a lesser writer, Voight’s story of Fredle is told with warmth and sincerity, full of gentle humor and plenty of mouse-sized adventure.  Actress Wendy Carter reads the novel with considerable talent, bringing us into Fredle’s world and adeptly managing the different voices of all the creatures he meets (though I’m not entirely sure why raccoons speak with a Jersey accent, but they sure were amusing!).  All in all, Young Fredle deserved its award and is perfect for families to listen to together.  And as much as I loved the audio production, it looks like the paper book has adorable illustrations, so either format is a winner!

Listening Library

Recommended for Ages 8 and up.

P.S. Oddly enough, I had never even heard of Cynthia Voight until earlier this year, when I read her Newberry Medal-winning novel Dicey’s Song, which I also loved!

Listen to an excerpt: 


AUDIO:            BOOK:    

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