Freddy is a kid who is lucky to have a lot of caring adults in her life but who, unfortunately, has very few friends. “Freddy Stories” is a collection of short, slice-of-life vignettes that captures this girl’s young experience, created by cartoonist Melissa Mendes.
Freddy is a scruffy oddball who enjoys being active, messy, daring and imaginative. Her parents may be separated but her home life with mom and their dog Frank is happy enough. She sees her dad occasionally and spends a lot of time with her neighbors who care for her while her mother is working.
Freddy is very resilient child and this comes off as maturity in the book. She’s not overly fussy and never lets herself be too sad — any problem she faces is easily solved through creativity or directness.
For a kid, she seems to have a lot of pride, a good sense of right and wrong, and clearly knows herself quite well. You feel pretty good about her as a character through and through, she seems strong. She has a good head on her shoulders and you rally for her because this girl, you think, has potential.
Immediately after finishing “Freddy Stories,” I felt alright about it. On its surface, the text and themes are not challenging. It’s easy enough to like. It didn’t become a brain teaser until later when I had to wonder, well, what was it even about?
“Freddy Stories” is cute and the art is clean and sweet. It’s very accessible and seems fun because the vignettes are light and unexpected. Freddy is always on the go — exploring new spaces, biking, collecting, building, and able to make her own fun happen anytime, anywhere. She seems very capable. Someone you’d want to be. However, in a lot of ways, Freddy is a pitiable and unrealized character with an uncertain future. Her story here feels very unfinished and unsatisfying as a result.
Because, once you realize that all there is and was to Freddy has lived and died on these pages, it’s incredibly sad to think that this kid with so much potential has completely failed to develop as a person through the course of her own story. She is the same person at the beginning of this book as she is at the end. Her life on its pages was brief, oddly repetitious, and over before it ever really began. In a sense, Freddy and her life were actually boring.
The most significant part of the book is what’s lacking: a strong mentor for Freddy. This girl is free in many ways to explore her world, but she doesn’t have anyone useful to advise or guide her. For someone so young, with so many adults available to her, it’s very odd that none of them make an effort to teach her anything and she never bothers to ask anything from them.
Her mom is gone a lot. When she’s with her neighbors, they let her do whatever she wants, which is cool, but she only ever wants to do the same kind of stuff: eat, collect, ride, build. And it never leads to anything life-changing. She doesn’t have peers that are enough like her to be challenging or sharpen or push her to become her real, adult self. She’s, maybe, 8 years old and already in a rut!
We are left to believe that Freddy has already evolved to become her true self, as complete as she’ll ever need to be to her author. As a result, Freddy may be sweet, but she’s certainly not dynamic.
Freddy is caring and seems eager to create friendships but we see her make only one friend, a boy who is very into dirt. At school she’s often teased and misunderstood because she’s regularly confused for a boy. It’s rough, but evidently not life-changing rough.
Endlessly faithful to the idea that Freddy is static and unalterable, she never even changes her clothes for the whole book, insisting to wear her hoodie even at the beach.
“Freddy Stories” is a 112-page black-and-white square-bound book with a full-color cover. It measures 6″x8″ and was published with assistance from the Xeric Foundation, a charitable non-profit that has offered grants to comic book self-publishers. It costs $10 and is available through author Melissa Mendes’ online store: http://www.mmmendes.com/store/