When Emily spots a young boy watching her play from the window of his grand house she decides to invite him to play with her. But Frederick lives a sheltered life and after several bad experiences of playing outside his mother much prefers he remain inside. Letters are exchanged via paper aeroplane but despite invites to climb trees, eat ice-cream, ride bikes and explore, Frederick won’t come outside. There are too many mights and could’s in Frederick’s world…he might break his collar bone, he could catch pneumonia or the hornets might sting him. Emily won’t be deterred that easily though but can she convince Frederick to come out to play…
I love this story that is all about putting aside fears and enjoying life. Yes we fear things and that is OK but should that really stop us from doing the things we love and having new experiences? As Frederick eventually decides, the answer is most definitely no and he finally heads out to play with Emily. Of course there is the obligatory accident but this time it does not deter Frederick from future adventures. Obviously parents want to protect their children but this story serves as a gentle reminder about how being over-protective can manifest itself as anxiety in children.
The story is told through a series of amusing letters and gorgeous double page spreads. The contrast between the two characters is cleverly portrayed through the illustrations and the letters that Emily and Frederick exchange. Frederick is surrounded by grandeur and opulence which are in stark contrast to the outdoor world that Emily inhabits. I know which one I would rather be a part of. Where Frederick’s world feels restricted, Emily is free and surrounded by beauty. On first glance the two children appear totally different but look closer and many similarities can be found. Activities that Emily is out doing are often mimicked or hinted at in Frederick’s world and you definitely get the feeling that he would love to be out there too. A broken bike can be seen on the floor of his bedroom, he builds a den inside and enjoys watching a fish swimming on TV whilst a goldfish lazily floats around in the bowl next to him.
The unusual storytelling style of notes between the children works unbelievably well. Both children have a very distinct voice, Frederick's notes are particularly amusing and I love the thought bubbles that show the results of his previous adventures as he writes. His formal notes with his repeated us of the phrasing “It is with bitter regret,” and “Sorrowfully yours,” again contrast with Emily’s lighthearted and much more straight forward tone of “Hi, wanna and love.”
Outdoors 1- 0 Inside. The beauty and enjoyment of playing outdoors definitely wins in this clever tale of a little risk-taking versus the comfort and safety of staying inside. Should help to settle the fears of any anxious children (and parents)!
Recommended for 5+.