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The author of the Cazalet Chronicles, who died in 2014, worked on this children’s book during the last decade of her life. Freddie is a young mouse, who is discontented with foraging for food night and day on behalf of his extensive family and generally dissatisfied with being small, timid and powerless. He soon meets a sorcerer toad who agrees to transform him magically into two different kinds of animal.
First, Freddie spends a week as a tiger in the jungle, then a week as a domestic dog. The tiger, forever on the prowl for prey, is all gratification and self-interest. The dog, meanwhile, knows nothing but patient suffering and unrequited devotion. Inhabiting their lives allows Freddie to see that his own is not so bad after all.
Structurally this is an odd book, reading like two separate halves welded together. However, Howard offers keen insights into animal behaviour, and the writing is beautiful throughout, displaying a pleasing gentility and building to a genuinely heart-warming conclusion.
The Amazing Adventures of Freddie Whitemouse, by Elizabeth Jane Howard, Mantle, RRP£9.99, 138 pages