The Misadventures of Frederic
Ben Manley, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
(Two Hoots Books)– hardback
A paper aeroplane soars through Frederick’s window with an invitation to ‘go to the forest’. Frederick smells the honeysuckle sweet airand asks his mother for permission to leave. However she reminds him ‘of the last time.’ Frederick replies with ‘bitter regret.’
Will Emily rouse Frederick from his huge, menacing indoors? Sorrowfully he declines in case he is ‘sick into a music box’ or ‘breaks both collar bones’. It seems Frederick is confined to imagining finches fluttering in sycamores or ‘ lonely salmon running ragged upstream‘. His observations are through his television, books, paintings and wishes. Meanwhile Emily adventures; swimming, riding bikes and exploring. As her letters become more insistent, Frederick’s apologies become more extravagant, while the outdoors penetrates his confinement… Will there be ‘The Misadventures of Frederick’? Why is Frederick indoors? Why does Emily persist with a boy who seems to have given up- or has he?
Ben Manley creates intelligent contrasting communications between verbose Frederick and direct Emily. Furthermore, his vocabulary is symbolic and expressive. Meanwhile, Emma Chichester- Clark highlights the message, meaning and unfolding drama brilliantly. We see the text changing, colours expanding, characters growing, until the climax of….
‘The Misadventures of Frederick‘ is reminiscent of Everything You Need for a Treehouse or On a Magical Do-Nothing Day. However the language here is rich and meaning laden, while the illustrator appears to have absorbed the relationship and communication in her picture telling. What a magnificent picture book!