Freddy the Pig
Freddy the Pig is the central figure in a series of 26 children's books written between 1927 and 1958 by American author Walter R. Brooks, and illustrated by Kurt Wiese. Consisting of 25 novels and one poetry collection, they focus on the adventures of a group of animals living on a farm in rural upstate New York.
Freddy is introduced as "the smallest and cleverest" of the pigs on the Bean farm. One of the ensemble to begin with, he becomes the central character shortly into the series. Freddy's interests drive the books as he becomes a detective, politician, newspaper editor, magician, pilot, and other vocations or avocations. A recurring villain is the slimy but dignified Simon, who leads a gang of criminal rats. Human characters include Mr. and Mrs. Bean, who own the farm, the population of local Centerboro, and human villains.
Much of the humor in the books derives from the self-referential way in which the author acknowledges the unreality of talking animals, unlike other children's works in which they are accepted as normal. As the series progresses, the Bean Farm animals attain national fame for their ability to talk and read, and the humans they encounter are taken aback at first (though only momentarily) to find themselves conversing with animals. Although the animals and humans do not age, the stories reflect the social conditions at the time of writing, for example, the books published during World War II have scrap drives and victory gardens.
Brooks created his animals for To and Again, published in 1927 by Alfred A. Knopf. It took some time before their personalities — and their ability to talk to humans when they chose, beginning with the fourth volume in 1936 — were fully developed. In the remainder of the series, the animals of the Bean Farm lead a highly developed life, variously operating a bank, a newspaper, the First Animal Republic, and Freddy's detective business, which follows the principles of Sherlock Holmes as Freddy knows them from his reading.
Despite their popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, the books went out of print in the 1960s, although children's libraries continued to have them. In the past decade they have been republished by The Overlook Press, in response to plaintive requests from Freddy fans who treasure their combination of ingenious plots, well-drawn characters, literary allusions, and wholesome (but not cloying) moral lessons. The audio and film rights to the series have been sold. Audio versions of some books were made and as of 2009, others are apparently in preparation.
In 1983 a group of devotees of the novel formed the charitable-numbered society, Friends of Freddy. As part of its mandate, the organization promotes the placement of Freddy books in public libraries, and hosts a biennial convention in Upstate New York. The most recent convention, in November 2014, was held in Hamilton, New York, a town which has historic connections to Walter R. Brooks. Lectures were given and a dramatization by Dave Carley of Freddy the Politician was staged in the Colgate University bookstore's performance space.
Reception of books
Adam Hochschild, writing in The New York Times Book Review, describes the series as "the moral center of my childhood universe." Hochschild also observes that — when available — sales of the books have increased since when they were first written. Roger Sale, in his history of children's literature, sums it up: "If L. Frank Baum has a successor, it is Brooks." Nicholas Kristof, columnist and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, named them amongst the best kids' books ever and called them "funny, beautifully written gems."
Location of books
Nearly all the books focus on the Bean farm and Centerboro area. Neither Centerboro nor the other towns mentioned as being nearest actually exist (Aeschylus Center, Gomorrah Falls, and South Pharisee, Plutarch Mills, and West Ninevah). However other towns described as slightly further away do exist: Syracuse, Rome, Buffalo, and Utica, New York (mentioned, for example in Freddy and the Baseball Team From Mars). This would put Centerboro somewhere east of Syracuse, close to where Brooks lived as a boy. However in Freddy and Mr. Camphor the nearby fictional lake Otesaraga is described as "thirty miles around, and only a mile across", this corresponds closely (and only) to Skaneateles Lake, some ten miles southwest of Syracuse. Regardless, the evidence supplied by Brooks points to the Bean farm being loosely within 30 miles southwest or generally east of Syracuse.
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Walter R. Brooks (January 9, 1886 – August 17, 1958) was an American writer best remembered for his short stories and children's books, particularly those about Freddy the Pig and other anthropomorphic animal inhabitants of the "Bean farm" in upstate New York.
Born in Rome, New York, Brooks attended college at the University of Rochester and subsequently studied homeopathic medicine in New York City. He dropped out after two years however, and returned to Rochester where he married his first wife, Anne Shepard, in 1909. Brooks found employment with an advertising agency in Utica, then "retired" in 1911, evidently because he came into a considerable inheritance. His retirement was not permanent: in 1917, he went to work for the American Red Cross and later did editorial work for several magazines, including The New Yorker. In 1940, Brooks turned to his own writing for his full-time occupation. Walter married his second wife, Dorothy Collins, following the death of Anne in 1952.
The first works Brooks published were poems and short stories. His short story, "Ed Takes the Pledge", about a talking horse was the basis for the 1960s television comedy series Mister Ed (credit for creating the characters is given in each episode to "Walter Brooks"). His most enduring works are about Freddy the Pig and his friends.
It has been said that the character of Habeas corpus from the Doc Savage stories was inspired by Freddy the Pig.
About the illustrator
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The series is illustrated by Kurt Wiese, who became an award-winning illustrator and author (although not for the Freddy series). The first book was illustrated by Adolfo Best Maugard, but redone by Wiese for when the book was re-released. After the first books, the pattern of illustration was established: a half-page black and white drawing at the beginning of each chapter, and a full page black and white drawing within each chapter. The covers are line drawings colored with watercolor, each emphasizing a dominant color. The endpapers are two tone, loosely matching the cover's color theme. For example, the yellow background and blue endpapers drawing of Freddy Rides Again match the non-natural yellow and blue colors of the cover (Freddy, a horse and a goat are yellow). All told, Wiese drew over 900 illustrations for the series.
Freddy books in order of publication
These are all 26 titles in the Freddy the Pig series. Five were originally published with other titles, in parentheses.
- Freddy Goes to Florida, 1927 (To and Again), LCCN 2001-16049; re-issued as both Freddy Goes to Florida and Freddy's First Adventure in 1949
- Freddy Goes to the North Pole, 1930 (More To and Again), LCCN 00-50151; re-titled
- Freddy the Detective, 1932
- Freddy and Freginald, 1936 (The Story of Freginald); re-titled 1952
- Freddy and the Clockwork Twin, 1937 (The Clockwork Twin); re-titled
- Freddy the Politician, 1939 (Wiggins for President); re-titled 1948
- Freddy's Cousin Weedly, 1940
- Freddy and the Ignormus, 1941
- Freddy and the Perilous Adventure, 1942
- Freddy and the Bean Home News, 1943
- Freddy and Mr. Camphor, 1944
- Freddy and the Popinjay, 1945
- Freddy the Pied Piper, 1946
- Freddy the Magician, 1947
- Freddy Goes Camping, 1948
- Freddy Plays Football, 1949
- Freddy the Cowboy, 1950
- Freddy Rides Again, 1951
- Freddy the Pilot, 1952
- Freddy and the Spaceship, 1953, LCCN 2001-48439
- The Collected Poems of Freddy the Pig, 1953
- Freddy and the Men from Mars, 1954
- Freddy and the Baseball Team From Mars, 1955
- Freddy and Simon the Dictator, 1956
- Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans, 1957
- Freddy and the Dragon, 1958
- "Brooks, Walter R". Revised November 13, 2014. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (sf-encyclopedia.com). Retrieved 2015-01-29. Entry by 'JC', John Clute.
- "Two Pigs", in Roger Sale, Fairy Tales and After: from Snow White to E.B. White", Harvard Univ. Press, 1978, p. 245. ISBN 0-674-29157-3.
- The Best Kids’ Books Ever
- In 2009, Overlook Press published a biography on the life and work of Brooks called Talking Animals and Others by Michael Cart; the commentary about the Freddy series is mostly limited to a 90-page section with plot summaries.
- Adam Hochschild, Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels (Syracuse University Press, 1997), "Paragon of Porkers: Freddy the Pig," pp. 235–240.
- Friends of Freddy Home Page
- Overlook Press's page for the Freddy series
- Mr. Eha's Place
- Harley Hahn's Freddy the Pig page
- The Oldest & Wisest's Freddypedia: The A-Z Encyclopedia of The Freddy the Pig Books
- Walter R. Brooks at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database