Thursday, March 29, 2012

F is for Freddy the Pig

You would think with my son's obsession with all things Hank the Cowdog, that John R. Erickson had invented the idea of farm animals talking to each other.  My Schnickelfritz has apparently forgotten the little runt pig Wilber we read about in Charlotte's Web four years ago.  The idea has also been the theme of television shows like Mr. Ed.   Hmmm, talking animals, a pig and Mr. Ed...if you diagrammed these ideas they would all intersect at a point labeled Freddy the Pig.    More than 75 years ago Walter R. Brooks (who later invented Mr. Ed) wrote a series of books about a farm of talking animals in upstate New York:  Hank the horse, Jinx the Cat, Mrs. Wiggins the cow and Freddy who emerged as the star of the series.

Not only do these animals talk amongst themselves, but in the wonderful world of children's fiction they also communicate with humans and nobody blinks an eye.   And it goes far beyond just talking--Freddy runs an animal travel agency, a bank, a newspaper, a detective agency, and a political campaign.  He writes poetry, becomes a magician, and learns to fly a plane. 

We were introduced to the series through Jan Bloom's Who Should We Then Read?   Mr. Brooks had garnered Top Author status in this compilation of 140 writers with a Christian worldview.   By coincidence, the same time I purchased this reference book Overlook Press had just  reissued hardback versions of all the Freddy books in honor of his 75th anniversary.   Unfortunately for Overlook, today's youth has a taste for vampires, werewolves, wizards, and post-apocalyptic death games.  The books didn't sell well and ended up at Half-Price Books, where I snatched up as many as I could.

Freddy is a character from a kinder, gentler age.  Ladies still wear hats and gloves.  In one of my favorite books, Freddy and the Popinjay, a robin earns money to pay for his new glasses (he was so near-sighted he mistook Freddy's tail for a worm) by posing on a lady's hat during a wedding she was attending.  The worst problem involves stopping a bully from hitting the animals with rocks from his sling shot (the answer is find him a friend to play with). 

That's not to say they aren't bad guys in the stories.  Freddy's chief nemesis is Simon the rat who lived under the barn stealing corn until he's banished from the farm.  He still finds ways to cause mischief in several of the volumes.  There are also humans that try to put the animal newspaper out of business or cheat Mr. Bean their farmer/owner.  It's nothing that a clever pig can't handle though.

If you kids like to listen to audiobooks, several titles have been read by Mr. John McDonough.  He reads in such a pleasant and soothing voice that it's easy to lull my son to sleep at bedtime.  Here is a complete list of Freddy books (colored titles have audio versions as well).
  1. Freddy Goes to Florida, 1927 (Originally titled To and Again)
  2. Freddy Goes to the North Pole, 1930 (Originally titled More To and Again)
  3. Freddy the Detective, 1932
  4. The Story of Freginald, 1936 (Originally titled Freddy and Freginald)
  5. The Clockwork Twin, 1937 (Originally titled Freddy and the Clockwork Twin)
  6. Freddy the Politician, 1939 (Originally titled Wiggins for President)
  7. Freddy's Cousin Weedly, 1940
  8. Freddy and the Ignormus, 1941
  9. Freddy and the Perilous Adventure, 1942
  10. Freddy and the Bean Home News, 1943
  11. Freddy and Mr. Camphor, 1944
  12. Freddy and the Popinjay, 1945
  13. Freddy the Pied Piper, 1946
  14. Freddy the Magician, 1947
  15. Freddy Goes Camping, 1948
  16. Freddy Plays Football, 1949
  17. Freddy the Cowboy, 1950
  18. Freddy Rides Again, 1951
  19. Freddy the Pilot, 1952
  20. Freddy and the Spaceship, 1953
  21. Freddy and the Men from Mars, 1954
  22. Freddy and the Baseball Team From Mars, 1955
  23. Freddy and Simon the Dictator, 1956
  24. Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans, 1957
  25. Freddy and the Dragon, 1958
This summer if your looking for some "just for fun" books that can be enjoyed by boys and girls, see if you can't find Freddy at your local library--the smart ones will have held onto these titles.  In the meantime, check out Ben and Me to see what others have come up with for the letter F.


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