Monday, September 28, 2009

FREDDY THE PIG Featured in The Globe and Mail

Sherie Posesorski of The Globe and Mail in Toronto pays tribute to Freddy the Pig: "When New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof listed "the best kids' books ever," I was thrilled to see that my very, very favourite book series as a child - the 26 Freddy the Pig books, written by Walter R. Brooks from 1927 to 1958 - were Kristofs "very favourites" too, "funny, beautifully written gems." The series centred on the comic adventures of a talking pig and his equally chatty animal friends, living on a farm in upstate New York, owned by the only miser with words in the series, Mr. Bean, who was proud yet slightly embarrassed that his animals could talk. And could they talk! Their acerbic, witty, shrewd conversation is as fast-mouthed and sharply funny as the Marx Brothers', as aphoristic and gimlet-eyed astute as Noel Coward's, and yet always affectionate and forgiving. Unlike many series which, over time, become forced and formulaic, the Freddy books got better book by book; the characterization of Freddy and his farm-animal friends richer - a persuasive blend of animal and human nature; the writing and adventurous storylines ever more amusing, clever and keenly satirical.

Freddy's fans over the decades include literary heavyweight Lionel Trilling, who described the series as "delightful," Lionel Gelber prizewinning journalist Adam Hochschild (King Leopold's Ghost) who has called Freddy, "that paragon of porkers ... a Renaissance pig" and Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, who acquired the movie rights. All the accolades, devoted fans and steady sales did not prevent the series from going out of print. It took the efforts of Toronto playwright Dave Carley, who founded the Friends of Freddy in 1984, to give the series the attention and profile that would bring it back into print. As fortunate Freddy readers would have it, the series turned out to be the favourite as well of former Penguin Books CEO Peter Mayer. Calling Freddy "one of the great figures in American children's literature," as publisher of Overlook Press, he bought the rights and the books are now available in facsimile hardcover reprints and trade paperbacks - which reproduce the mischievous, delectably unforgettable black and white illustrations of Kurt Wiese. The best introduction to the series is Freddy the Detective. And where to go from there? Every Freddy fan has favourites. . . I grew up on the Freddy books, and I wanted to be like Freddy when I grew up, to be up to any challenge despite my many fears and insecurities. I wanted to have a life like his, full of possibility and adventure and surrounded by a circle of encouraging friends who knew me through and through, as I did them, providing an affectionate dose of needed reality - and rescue, too, whenever necessary. Together, we could face anything, even ignormuses and power crazed woodpeckers!"

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