In Angus and Sadie, Newbery Medalist Cynthia Voigt introduced two border collie siblings, adopted by Mister and Missus, a young Maine couple who own a farm. In Young Fredle, Voigt returns with another look at this busy farm from the point of view of a house mouse. Residing along with his family in a wide nest behind the second shelf of the kitchen pantry, Fredle is often reprimanded for asking too many questions and following his reckless cousin, Axle. Even the threat of “went,” as in a mouse who “went” away after being caught in a trap, can’t deter his constant curiosity.
After being coaxed by Axle into eating the best food ever, a brown, smooth and sugary substance (which he later discovers is called chocolate), Fredle develops a horrible stomachache. Pushed out of his nest, as is the custom with sick mice, and scooped up by the Missus, the young mouse finds himself outside for the first time.
In Voigt’s adventurous tale, a delight of old-fashioned storytelling that’s complemented by adorable sketches, Fredle tries to find his way back home. While life outside of the house seems dangerous at first, with barn cats, a woodshed snake, pecking chickens, swooping raptors and foraging raccoons, he also encounters the beauty of flowers, the taste of orange rind, a bright sky with no ceiling and a large, luminous object that changes shape each night.
As they follow the mouse’s journey, children will make their own discoveries about the differences among mice (house mice are gray and field mice are brown, for instance) and their habits. As he nears home, Fredle wonders why we can’t stay curious as we grow up. That’s a lesson for readers young and old to ponder.