Thursday, September 29, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy Rides Again (1951)

This is notable as the first actual sequel to a Freddy book.  Oh, I suppose if you wanted, you could argue that the first two make up a diptych—characters going to and, indeed, again—and I can't stop you!  You can argue that if you want!  But I really don't think it's the same thing.  This takes place right on the heels of Freddy the Cowboy, and everyone is still in the grip of cowboy mania (and Freddy, as a cowboy troubadour, sings the smash hit songs “Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Pigs” and “The Old Pigs at Home”—your song-parody skills could use some work, dude!).  The main conflict this time is that this rich family, the Margarines, have moved in near the Beans, and they're throwing their weight around and annoying everyone with their fox-hunting ways (paging Mr. Trollope!), although apparently the only fox in the area is John, and he doesn't seem very huntable.  The son and mother get reformed and become less prickish (in a predictable yet still satisfying way); the father, Elihu, seems to basically just get overwhelmed; whether he starts sucking less remains to be seen.  There's actually a climactic duel between him and Freddy; notwithstanding the fact that we know no one is going to be killed or even seriously injured here, it still manages to feel fairly tense.  A Morricone soundtrack would be appropriate.

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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy the Cowboy (1950)

This one feels less plot-heavy than most; there is a central conflict, but the whole thing is more slice-of-life than usual.  Pretty chill.  So all the animals, feeling at loose ends, head in different directions to find adventure.  Freddy finds a guy named Flint who's abusing his horse, Cy, so Freddy buys him to emancipate him, and Cy, being a cowboy horse—Flint runs a wild-west show/camp thing—teaches Freddy the ropes.  In the meantime, we meet a bunch of rabbit disguised as monsters, called the “Horrible Ten”—look, it would be too convoluted to explain how they come to be.  But this Flint character?  He wants to rob the animals' bank!  No!  Well, they stop him and scare him away, but he still has it in for Freddy, so something's gonna have to be done about that.

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Monday, September 19, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy Plays Football (1949)

Well, he does play football--good ol' Murkin football, natch, not yer Euro commie soccer--but that is very much the b plot of the book, almost completely segregated from the a plot, which involves Mrs. Bean's alleged long-lost brother, Aaron Doty, who has suspiciously reappeared to claim the half of the inheritance that he's supposed to get (also we learn for the first time that Mrs. Bean's first name is Martha; if I haven't mentioned it, which I don't think I have, Mr. Bean is William).  But is this guy, who's constantly telling tall tales about his greatness and demurring when called on to demonstrate any of his amazing skills, actually who he says he is?  Boy, THERE's a poser for you.  So there's that.  In the meantime, Centerboro's high school football team is always losing to their rival, Tushville, which has a bunch of flagrantly non-high-school-age ringers on it (people joke that CHS stands for (“Can't Hope to Score,” which seems believable).  So Freddy enrolls in the school so he can join the team and helps them out.  He's briefly wanted by the law when he steals the five thousand dollars that the Beans are supposed to pay to Doty—because it would ruin them—but then he gets exonerated and gets to play, joined in the climactic game by a bunch of other animals.

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Thursday, September 15, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy Goes Camping (1948)

Well, a certain amount of camping does occur in this book (you get the impression that Brooks himself was an enthusiast), but it's not really about sleeping in the woods. Mr. Camphor is back! And he needs help, because his two aunts, Elmira and Minerva, have moved in with him and are driving him crazy. Elmira is lugubriously gloomy all the time (“What's she interested in?” “Sorrow,” said Mr. Camphor. “Misery. Grief, woe, and tribulation”), Minerva typically spiky and mean. They usually stay in a hotel when they visit their nephew, but this time, the hotel seems to be...haunted? Freddy's got to figure out what's up with that as well as deal with aunt trouble.

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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy the Magician (1947)

(Doesn't that cover look sort of wrong?  Like they accidentally pushed the "by Walter R. Brooks" too far down?  I'm sure the 'y' isn't meant to be dangling into the illustration like that.  Weird.)

Freddy is impressed by a magician, Signor Zingo, working in Mr. Boomschmidt's circus.  In spite of being a good magician, he's a pretty dodgy guy, and when he's fired for embezzlement, his estranged (...or IS he?!?) rabbit, Presto, agrees to teach Freddy some tricks.  Zingo in the meantime is hanging around in Centerboro and being a real prick, using sleight-of-hand tricks to blackmail the hotel owner into not charging him (because if he does, Zingo will reveal that, allegedly, there are bugs in the food) and messing up Freddy's own magic show.  But, natch, Freddy gets his own back when he and his pals work to sabotage Zingo's own show.  And that is approximately it.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy the Pied Piper (1946)

At the beginning, there's love in the air, maybe: “Today was St. Valentine's Day, and he had hoped the mailman would bring him some valentines.”  Woo!  Then again, maybe not: “It was a nice dream.  He was opening stacks of valentines, and each valentine had a dollar bill in it.  It was rather like Christmas, only better because there were no names signed to the valentines and so there wouldn't be any thank-you letters to write.”  That is very mercenary of you, Freddy.  Also, the series seems to be gradually opening up to the idea of the animals, at least potentially, having more money: when the bank was established, it was kind of understood that none of them had anything more than occasionally lost coins that they found, but now it's a little more open.

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Thursday, September 01, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Popinjay (1945)

So the “popinjay” in question is actually just a robin, name J.J. Pomeroy.  He's near-sighted, so Freddy suggests that he have the local optometrist make him special custom-sized glasses.  Then, he and his wife stumble into their own business, where they're all dolled up with extra feathers and things, and they sit on the hats of ladies who want to be chic (because you see there's a law against having dead birds on hats, but nothing wrong with live ones).  In the meantime, the B plot—which is actually probably the A plot, in spite of the title—involves Mr. Bean's neighboring farmer, Zenas Witherspoon, and his son Jimmy.  Witherspoon was mentioned a few times in previous books, but not much characterized or anything.  Here, he's miserly to an extreme degree, terrorizing his family.  His son Jimmy has become mean and maladjusted due to being ostracized by the other kids for always looking like a hobo.  He spends his free time throwing rocks at the Bean animals, to everyone's distress.  But through a gradual process, he learns to be nicer, and his dad eventually learns that he should be at least somewhat less stingy.  There's also a C plot, involving a wildcat named Mac: the animals don't trust wildcats, not least because when Mac's children were in a school (taught by Peter the bear's brother, Joseph), they ate some of the rabbit pupils (no, we have never before seen animals eating other animals presented quite this explicitly).  But Mac claims that they're reformed, and wants them to have another chance.  The Pomeroys realize that they've been getting a bit up themselves with their newfound celebrity, and decide to be normal ol' robins again.  And that is that.

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