ANIMAL FARM AMERICAN STYLE
Walter R. Brooks created one of the most unforgettable characters in children’s books in 1927, when he wrote Freddy Goes to Florida . Freddy was a pig on Mr. Bean’s farm somewhere in New York State; in the two dozen volumes that followed, Freddy would become, among other things, a newspaper editor, a magician, a cowboy, a balloonist, a bank owner, and a political boss. As that range of professions suggests, the pig’s stories were both lyrical and hard-boiled, both morally instructive and witty. Freddy Goes to Florida takes as its premise a bunch of farm animals deciding that if birds can head South for the winter, they should be allowed to as well. Here’s how it begins:
“Charles, the rooster, came out of the front door of the chicken coop and walked slowly across the barn-yard. It was still very dark in the barn-yard, for it was half past four in the morning, and the sun was not yet up. He shivered and thought of his nice warm perch in the coop, but there was a reason why he did not go back to it. Mr. Bean, the farmer, did not have very much money, and could not afford to buy an alarm-clock, and he relied on the rooster to wake him up bright and early in the morning. The last time Charles had overslept, Mr. Bean had been very angry and had threatened to have him fricasseed with baking-powder biscuit for Sunday dinner....” Many baby boomers will remember growing up with Freddy, but the books have generally been out of print since the 1970s, forcing librarians sometimes to photocopy them for children in the know. Now at last they all are back, in handsome, sturdy hardcover facsimile editions, at $23.95 apiece, from Overlook Press.