4 out of 4 stars
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Friedrich, by Andy Borger, is a young adult book that explores the life of a German farm boy living in Canada in the post-World War II era. The book splendidly describes the love between parents and children, between friends, and between a boy and girl.
The native Germans, Herman and Hilda, abhor the Nazis because of their atrocities against the Jewish people. After World War II ended, they fled to Canada with their daughter, Greta, her husband, John, and their grandchildren, Friedrich and Agnes. After a difficult first few weeks, they started adjusting to their new lives. The five-year-old Friedrich was enrolled in a school where he was constantly bullied for being a German and was forced to change his name to Fred to better fit in with his peers. He didn’t have any friends until third grade when he met Edward, who suffered from Duchene muscular dystrophy, which made it difficult for him to walk on his own or participate in normal activities for children. From then onwards, the two of them were inseparable, and a deep bond was formed.
Fred loved to work on the farm, which helped him to develop a strong and muscular build. He was also asked to join the baseball team, and at first he declined because he didn’t want Edward to feel left out. Their bond grew stronger day after day. Fred started calling Edward’s parents “Mother and Father,” and they also loved him like their own son. Fred’s love for science grew alongside farming, and he enrolled in a university. But what happens when Betty, a pretty young girl belonging to the elite class enters in his life and tries to light a spark in his heart? What about overcoming the class differences and stigmas of society? Will he be able to influence Betty’s father’s racial and social discriminatory behavior? Or will he just continue focusing on his studies?
With a simplistic choice of words and a magnetic writing style, the author has spectacularly described the farm lifestyle like harrowing the field for corn seeding, cutting the twine to gather hay bales, or washing and drying the teats of a cow before attaching the milking machine. The elements of the setting were clearly expressed throughout the story, such as Fred’s rented room off campus in a Victorian house with an attic and “a row of old maples along the sidewalk.” Each character develops uniquely and remarkably. Fred goes from a kid who was constantly bullied to a young, strong and popular fellow who took part in every school activity though his love for science didn’t overtake his dedication towards farming. Likewise, Edward transits from having a rather helpless attitude to an appreciative outlook about the small things in life.
The story highlights the importance of the upbringing of a child in a healthy, communicative, and loving family environment. Both Fred and Edward’s parents played an exemplifying role by being supportive and understanding towards their children. The author has broken the taboo of parents who control the lives of their children. In such a manner, we observe Ma and Pa, Fred’s parents, who choose not to interfere in Fred’s launch into romantic life and “let God do the work” even if it “was so difficult standing on the sideline,” especially when they though of Betty as the perfect match for their son.
The book is an exceptional educational read for teenagers, focusing on the importance of growing up in a healthy familial environment. It can also be a book for mature audiences, especially parents interested in grasping a few educational tips on approaching different subjects with their children. Except for a few punctuation errors that didn’t interfere with the overall flow of the story, the book is well-edited. I gladly award Friedrich, by Andy Borger, with a four out of four-star rating as there was nothing to be disliked.
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