Leo Lionni's Frederick
Book review by Tamara Splingaerd
It’s no secret that I derive my adult worldview directly from my
childhood reading materials. I believe everything really is that simple.
Among other things, observation, creativity and curiosity are
necessities for a fulfilled, contented life.
Leo Lionni not only understands this but is willing to gift this knowledge to your children in the most accessible form. Through art, poetry and a precise character vision, he delivers picture books that lodge themselves permanently in one’s soul. (Read Tamara's review of another Lionni classic, Swimmy.)
Frederick is no exception.
Lionni’s humble mouse sits nearly motionless as his family gathers the utilitarian supplies necessary to survive the harsh winter. They aren’t overjoyed that Frederick isn’t gathering food like the others. They are skeptical when he claims to be collecting sunlight, words and colors for the bitter gray days ahead.
Winter arrives and the food sustains the group for a while, but soon the supplies have dwindled and they are out of things to say. They are feeling cold, gray and sad until they remember,
What about your supplies, Frederick?
Little Frederick begins to speak, describing the warm glow of the sun, the colors of blue periwinkles and the green leaves of the berry bush. Like magic, they feel warmth, they see the colors.
They ask for the words he collected and Frederick recites a poem he’s written about the seasons. His audience applauds, finally understanding his contribution.
But Frederick…you are a poet!
And Frederick blushes. After all, it’s nice to be acknowledged.
Lionni’s clean, textural collages are simple enough to portray perfect mousey cuteness, yet complex enough to show such emotions as diligence and humility.
Frederick brings both a lesson and a warm, fuzzy feeling. If you haven’t already stacked your shelves, with Lionni’s works, fill that void ASAP. Especially if you’re wallowing in the doldrums of winter - all you’re missing is the magic of imagination, exactly as Frederick teaches us.
Webmaster's note: Frederick can be seen as Lionni's response to Aesop's The Ant and the Grasshopper.
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