There’s a long history of talking animals in upstate New York, thanks to Walter R. Brooks, a former Rochesterian who wrote the Freddy the Pig children’s books and created TV’s Mister Ed.
Michael Cart, author of Talking Animals and Others: The Life and Work of Walter R. Brooks, will discuss Rochester’s role in Brooks’ life and the Freddy books at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 6 in the Rundel Memorial Building, 115 South Avenue.
The talk will supplement a Freddy the Pig exhibit in the children’s section of the Central Library of Rochester, across the street from the Rundel building, from mid-September to mid-October.
The 26 books in the beloved series, originally published between 1927 and 1958, are set on the Bean farm, outside a small town called Centerboro that’s apparently just a short hop from Rochester via balloon or flying saucer.
On the Bean farm, the animals all talk. Some of them even read. At one point they form their own government – the First Animal Republic – and elect a sensible cow, Mrs. Wiggins, as President. (That’s in Freddy the Politician, published in 1939. Interestingly, George Orwell’s Animal Farm was published six years later.)
The central character, Freddy, is a pig-of-all-trades: detective, magician, pilot, football player, baseball coach, cowboy, adventurer, you name it. With great humor and no preachiness or condescension to younger readers, author Brooks has the barnyard residents confront challenges using friendship as their most potent force.
“The stories hold up pretty well,” says Randy Cepuch, who grew up in the town of Greece and is the current President of The Friends of Freddy, a group of more than 400 fans of the series. “I read them all when I was 8 or 9 and I’ve recently enjoyed re-reading them all in my early 60’s.”