The Wee Free Men
Adorable and funny. Everything in the book captured my imagination, from Granny Aching and her sheep to the little blue and red Wee Free Men to Tiffany and her pale blue dress. The tone of the book is tuned so that it’s not the adult version of me that was reading. The book completely bypasses adult you and speaks directly to your inner child in the most delightful way.
In a world of blue skies and bright green grass over soft, pliable chalk, we find Tiffany playing near a stream. Tiffany has read the entire dictionary front to back, but since no one says words like onomatopoeia on a farm, she doesn’t know how to pronounce them. Tiffany is lying on her stomach next to a stream tickling trout when we meet her. She’s rolling the word susurrus around in her head because she likes the way it tastes. You see, Tiffany wants to be a witch. She doesn’t buy into the usual witch tripe about how they live in the woods and try to eat children. She doesn’t for one moment believe that the stories are presenting an accurate picture of witches. It’s because of this that Tiffany is perfectly suited for the adventure she finds. He brother has gone missing and the only person who can find him is Tiffany.
It’s very rare for a book to make me laugh. I chuckle to myself while reading with reasonable frequency, but for a laugh to audibly erupt out of me takes a certain amount of humor. This book, hit that level frequently. The Wee Free Men (aka Mac Nac Freegles) are pure comedy. There is a particular moment that was just hilarious. Upon returning to the farm, Tiffany sees Ratbag (the farm cat) with a baby bird in its paws. She wishes out loud that she could stop him from catching baby birds because it makes her sad. She goes into the dairy and is having a conversation with the Miss Tick’s toad when she hears: ”Flappitty-flappitty flap! Cheep, cheep! Ach, poor wee me, cheepitty cheep!” Outside the window, she sees one of the Wee Free Men flapping around on the ground like a wounded bird with makeshift wings and a beak. The cat, of course, can’t resist such tempting prey and pounces on the little man who, having rolled in front of the cat, grabs both ears and headbutts the cat. Ratbag rolls onto his back. (Here’s my favorite part.) The little man leans over the cat and shouts “CHEEP!” That is pure comedic gold to me. There’re so many other moments, always with the Freegles, that had me trying to catch my breath before the hiccups could set in.
The story isn’t just laughter (though there was a whole lot of that); it’s always endearing and sweet. Tiffany is just wonderful. She’s intelligent and brave and charming. I know I’ve said this before, but she’s everything a little girl should be. You guys, she takes on a Queen, going into the Queen’s world, armed with only a frying pan and a book of remedies for sheep. That is true bravery. She keeps saying something over and over throughout the book and it struck me as something more people should hear. She keeps noticing that the magic isn’t lost from something just because you know how it works, which is something the world could do with more of. I can fly to San Francisco in a little under five hours from the chair I’m sitting in right now, and I can read a book the entire way. I can move in a large metal box and go over 70 miles an hour. So much was once magical to humanity that we’ve lost because we’re too busy to see the fireflies in the forest. This has always struck me as sad. People are so busy with careers that they forget the magic contained in a baby’s laugh. Frankly, that kind of sucks. I’d really rather live in a world where everyone stops to watch the fireworks. We need more Tiffanies in the world. (Phew. I didn’t realize that was going to turn into a tirade until I finished it.)
5 ink bottles. This story is delightful. This is the perfect story for a parent/aunt/uncle/grandparent to read to a small child or the perfect story to read to your inner child. One way or the other, someone will smile because, I have to tell you, it’s impossible not to while reading about the Wee Free Men.