Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt is the story of a young mouse's unexpected journey.
is a kitchen mouse. He lives in the nest behind the wall with his
extended family, and together they forage in the kitchen and pantry for
food every night. The mice live by rules and routines, and any mouse too
old or too sick to forage is pushed out of the nest. Fredle expects to
live his entire life in the nest, and so he would have, had it not been
for an unfortunate encounter with a peppermint patty. The candy is the
best thing Fredle has ever tasted, but the chocolate makes him sick --
not sick enough to die, but sick enough that the other mice push him out
of the nest onto the pantry floor, where the lady of the house
discovers him. Too tenderhearted to just put the cat in to deal with
him, she puts Fredle outside -- and thus begins an adventure with field
mice and raccoons, snakes and hawks, dogs and chickens, as Fredle tries
to get back inside to his home and family. The journey is an eye-opening
one for Fredle as he learns about different ways of living and
discovers that some of the things he has always been taught are not true
at all. Will Fredle find a way home again . . . or will he choose to
make a new home for himself?
In reading (or rather, listening to)
this story, I was struck by how Fredle's voyage resembles Joseph
Campbell's Hero's Journey in many ways. Though he doesn't precisely
choose to leave the nest, Fredle does choose to follow the enticing
scent of the candy that causes his eventual expulsion, and from there he
does meet helpers and face challenges as he attempts to return home.
The writing in the story is fairly strong, and Fredle's character, with
its defining trait of curiosity, is well-developed. Many of the
secondary characters are also strong and interesting in their own right.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Wendy Carter, who does a very
nice job of voicing the wide variety of characters Fredle meets.
always bemused at the number of juvenile chapter books that feature
mice, but this is a worthy addition to their ranks, one that I will
recommend to fans of Beverly Cleary's Ralph and Avi's Poppy.
(Reviewed from an audiobook borrowed through my library system.)