Wednesday 27 April 2022

Freddy the Not-Teddy

Freddy the Not-Teddy by Kristen Schroeder, illustrated by Hilary Jean Tapper (EK Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN: 9781922539090

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

Freddy is Jonah’s favourite toy, but he doesn’t resemble a Teddy bear – he looks more like a ‘funky duck’ or a ‘punk rock penguin’. When Jonah’s teacher announces that the class will have a Teddy Bears’ Picnic, Jonah is sad because Freddy does not make a very good Teddy. Jonah grabs a bear from under his bed and takes both the bear and Freddy to school. When it comes time to show his toy to the other children, Jonah follows his heart and introduces them to Freddy. They all have fun guessing what kind of creature Freddy is, and Jonah gifts his bear to Cassie, who does not have a stuffed animal of her own.

Kristen Schroeder’s delightful story will resonate with anyone who feels different and wants to fit in. Perfect for youngsters aged four to eight, the simple language allows humour and humanity to shine from the pages. As readers develop empathy for eccentric little Freddy, they comprehend the importance of inclusivity and cheer Jonah as he champions kindness and compassion.

Awash with the glow of mint green and the zest of lemon yellow, Hilary Jean Tapper’s watercolour illustrations exude lightness and joy. She reiterates the theme of inclusivity with the variety of kids in Jonah’s class – from the boy with glasses and the girl wearing a headscarf to the child in a wheelchair. The depiction of Freddy is particularly clever, as it gives readers the chance to use their imaginations and try to work out what Freddy is. 

Visually and textually uplifting, Freddy the Not-Teddy has a sweetness that will not sour with repeated readings. Children will fall in love with Freddy as well as the fabulous idea that there is a place in the world for even the quirkiest of characters.

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