Frederick has everything it seems – except freedom. Emily may not have the toys but she does have the freedom of the countryside but she has no one to play with. Will Frederick ever find the courage to ignore the possibility of something dreadful happening if he does leave his safe home. What will happen if he does?
Chichester Clark’s colour saturated illustrations take over each double page spread alternating between Frederick’s claustrophobic room where a dark, sombre palette dominates, while Emily’s actions are set against a white ground, the colours brighter and lighter, emphasising her freedom. The contrast is telling and effective, a perfect counterpart to the text. This is presented almost completely in the form of letters – or in the case of Emily, notes. Frederick’s efforts are flowery, poetical – here is a child who lives through his imagination. Emily’s answers are short – and get shorter – very much to the point. Manley sets up the expectation that we will have a fairytale ending of escape. However, freedom is not without risk – but this does not mean that it is not worth it. This is a clever, quite subtle narrative that sets out to counter the notion that children should be restricted because something unfortunate might happen. It does this through an engaging storyline cleverly enhanced and extended by the brilliant illustrations that add humour and personality. Unusual and very enjoyable.