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Monday, March 28, 2011

Young Fredle, written by Cynthia Voigt. Random House, 2011. $18.99 ages 9 and up

"But he also remembered the
look of those yellow flowers,
their shining cups, and the way
squirrels leapt through the grass
in a burst of speed to run up the
trunks of trees, and the taste of
orange rind and the sound of
chickens and what it is was like
to go out in the sunlight, if you
wanted to, into a world full of
color, or by moonlight into a
world of silver shadows."

When Fredle eats chocolate, gets sick and makes the mistake of being observed by the Missus, he is quietly and gently banished to the outside. As a house mouse, Fredle has no concept of the greater world. He longs for his family and searches for a way back home; but first, he embarks on a trip that takes him into the world of the farmyard and then beyond any known environs. In the time that he is gone, he is frightened and enlightened, awed and pawed, scared, lonely and invigorated. When he finally finds his way home to the kitchen mice who are his family, he is a changed mouse.

Fredle's supporting cast is quite the bunch; Sadie is the family's dog, Bardo is a field mouse with a lot of knowledge and a willingness to share it incessantly, and the raccoons are a rambunctious, rowdy lot who threaten and bully. They are also very funny, and recognizable in human form. The emotions are strong and heartfelt. The adventure is full of twists and turns, suspense and blessing.

With help from a few and a large measure of courage, Fredle finds his way back home, first to the cellar mice who provide shelter and food, then to the kitchen where his family continues with their daily routines. After spending some time with them and trying to talk with his previously adventurous cousin Axle, Fredle is left to ponder the meaning of home, and his place in it:

"He thought: Mice don't know everything. He thought: Some of the rules are wrong. OK, maybe not wrong so much as unnecessary. Not all the rules, and maybe not wrong for all mice, but definitely wrong for some. That cheered him up. Another cheering thought was other creatures had some good ideas, and he already knew some of them."

Life on the outside had come with its share of terror and uncertainty but it also held beauty and wonder. Fredle knew what he had to do!

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