Freddy Goes to Florida – Walter R. Brooks

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Freddy Goes to Florida is vintage kid lit—really vintage; it was first published in 1949. That means the language and some of the social conventions reflect the zeitgeist of the time and will seem odd to today’s readers. The puffy male rooster is considered a lazy, unproductive husband by the busy-raising-ten-chicks hen, for instance. The Capitol has a golden dome—does the Capitol building have a golden dome? I don’t recall that. The animals in the story are formal and polite and a little girl they encounter on their renegade migration to Florida is pushing a pram and tending to dollies—fine but no tomboys in this story.

But the whole thing works, from the madcap idea to spend the winter in sunny Florida to the lovely trip a whole barnyard of creatures has, including conversations with savvy flocks of birds and adventures with wicked men who try to capture the animals to sell or eat. Freddy is a very smart pig—a pre-Babe with enormous self-confidence and a yen for travel. He is the star of Walter R. Brooks’ 25-book “Freddy the Pig” series but only one of the featured players in this, the first book. There is a cocky rooster, a nurturing cow, a plodding accommodating horse, a trickster cat, a couple of adaptable spiders, some ducks and—well, it’s an animal story.

Along the route to the subtropical temperatures of the South, the vagabonds find convenient barns to shelter in during thunderstorms, meet the President of the United States and are given a Washington D.C. parade, outwit bandits and bad guys a number of times, see a progression of vegetation as they travel from chilly North to the promised land along with the snowbirds, and discover a long-hidden fortune that will solve everyone’s problems in the end.

Freddy Goes to Florida would make a warm and imaginative read-aloud for a young child. Any kid who could read this would have to be well and widely read to appreciate the charm of the old-fashioned story—it’s not Captain Underpants or Junie B. Jones. But it is a lovely, nostalgic trip back to a time when the incidents in this animal tale, from threatening alligators in a swamp to the treasures to be salvaged from a dump, were exotic fare for a bedtime read and happily-ever-after was the way all real stories were supposed to end.

Freddy Goes to Florida   Walter R. Brooks | Puffin Books   2001


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