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Frederick Paperback – April 12, 1973

141 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A splendid achievement."—School Library Journal (Starred Review)

“In Frederick, a mouse who is a poet from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail demonstrates that a seemingly purposeless life is indeed far from that—and that we need not live by bread alone!”—Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

“When dreary winter comes, it is Frederick the poet-mouse who warms his friends and cheers them with his words.” —Wilson Library Bulletin.

From the Inside Flap

Illus. in full color. "While other mice are gathering food for the winter, Frederick seems to daydream the summer away. When dreary winter comes, it is Frederick the poet-mouse who warms his friends and cheers them with his words."--Wilson Library Bulletin.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Lexile Measure: 500L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Dragonfly Books; English Language edition (April 12, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394826140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394826141
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.2 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

author spotlight
"From time to time, from the endless flow of our mental imagery, there emerges unexpectedly something that, vague though it may be, seems to carry the promise of a form, a meaning, and, more important, an irresistible poetic charge."--Leo Lionni

Leo Lionni wrote and illustrated more than 40 highly acclaimed children's books. He received the 1984 American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal and was a four-time Caldecott Honor Winner--for Inch by Inch, Frederick, Swimmy, and Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse. Leo Lionni died in October of 1999 at his home in Tuscany, Italy, at the age of 89.


"Of all the questions I have been asked as an author of children's books, the most frequent one, without doubt, has been 'How do you get your ideas?' Most people seem to think that getting an idea is both mysterious and simple. Mysterious, because inspiration must come from a particular state of grace with which only the most gifted souls are blessed. Simple, because ideas are expected to drop into one's mind in words and pictures, ready to be transcribed and copied in the form of a book, complete with endpapers and cover. The word get expresses these expectations well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

"It is true that, from time to time, from the endless flow of our mental imagery, there emerges unexpectedly something that, vague though it may be, seems to carry the promise of a form, a meaning, and, more important, an irresistible poetic charge. The sense of instant recognition with which we pull this image into the full light of our consciousness is the initial impulse of all creative acts. But, though it is important, it produces no more than the germ of an idea. Each book, at the birth of its creative history, has such a moment. Some are fortunate enough to have, from the outset, a strongly identified hero, one with an inescapable destiny. Others are blessed with a promising beginning, or perhaps with the vision of an ending (which means working backwards to a surprise opening). Others stem from a clearly articulated conflict situation. Sometimes, I must admit, the motivations of a book may be found in a sudden, unreasonable urge to draw a certain kind of crocodile. And it may even happen that in the dark of our minds there appears, out of nowhere, a constellation of words that has the bright, arrogant solidity of a title. Only last night I was jolted out of a near-slumber by the words the mouse that didn't exist. I am sure that, temporarily tucked away in my memory, they will eventually become the title of a story for which as yet I have no idea.

"To shape and sharpen the logic of a story, to tighten the flow of events, ultimately to define the idea in its totality, is much like a game of chess. In the light of overall strategy, each move is the result of doubts, proposals, and rejections, which inevitably bring to mind the successes or failures of previous experiences.

"Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work. Creative work, to be sure, because its ingredients come from the sphere of the imaginary. But the manipulation of these ingredients requires much more than mere inclination or talent. It is an intricate process in which the idea slowly takes form, by trial and error, through detours and side roads, which, were it not for the guidance of professional rigor, would lead the author into an inextricable labyrinth of alternatives.

"And so, to the question 'How do you get your ideas?' I am tempted to answer, unromantic though it may sound, 'Hard work.' "

Leo Lionni has gained international renown for his paintings, graphic designs, illustrations, and sculpture, as well as for his books for children. He was born in Holland in 1910 of Dutch parents, and although his education did not include formal art courses (in fact, he has a doctorate in economics from the University of Genoa), he spent much of his free time as a child in Amsterdam's museums, teaching himself to draw.

Lionni's business training gradually receded into the background as his interest in art and design grew. Having settled in Milan soon after his marriage in 1931, he started off by writing about European architecture for a local magazine. It was there that he met the contacts who were to give him a start as a professional graphic designer. When he moved to America in 1939, Lionni was hired by a Philadelphia advertising agency as art director. Later he became design director for the Olivetti Corporation of America, and then art director for Fortune magazine. At the same time, his reputation as an artist flourished as he began to exhibit his paintings and drawings in galleries from New York to Japan.

Lionni launched his career as an author/illustrator of books for children in 1959. Originally developed from a story he had improvised for his grandchildren during a dull train ride, Little Blue and LittleYellow was the first of what is now a long list of children's picture books, including four Caldecott Honor Books.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

148 of 155 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I and my sister grew up with Frederick as one of the most sacred books in our childhood canon. Recently, while shuffling through boxes of ancient heirlooms, I came across the simple, unassuming cover of Frederick (in 1977 the cover showed only the back of Frederick in the lower right corner, gazing into the distance, and no title), and immediately a serene peace overcame me. I couldn't believe I had forgotten about this book. I sat down and read it again, and from a distance of twenty years it still resonated with me. This book brought calm and joy into my heart as a child, and did so again as I read it today. I can't think of any better recommendation for a book than that.
In terms of content, the story of Frederick is simple. In a community narrowly focused on efficiency, one mouse stands apart and concerns himself with art. Frederick notes the wonder of the world he lives in, and takes the time to assimilate it. While his cohorts may grumble at this behavior, when the dreariness of winter overtakes them they are grateful for Frederick's words. Frederick's poetry is seen as an essential supply for survival.
The illustrations are simple and yet extremely expressive -- witness my instant emotional reaction to a cover that was ninety-percent blank space -- and the wording is likewise concise. But the emotional impact of this book is what sets it apart. Out of sixty or seventy books I thumbed through today, I pulled out six that I felt defined my childhood. This book was at the top of the stack.
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82 of 86 people found the following review helpful By slomamma on July 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
In a children's bookstore, I once heard a father tell his son to put back a picture book because it was "garbage." Maybe he saw the shocked look on my face, because he started lecturing me about how children today need to learn a lot of things and they don't have time to waste on fairy tales and other stories.
Unfortunately, his point of view is becoming more common. It looks like this generation of children is going to grow up in a world that cares more about their ability to memorize facts and formulas and regurgitate them for standardized tests than it cares about their ideas and imaginations.
Leo Lionni's books - especially Frederick - are great antidotes to that narrow mindset.
Frederick is an artistic and imaginative little mouse. While his family gathers food for the winter, Frederick sits around observing. The other mice criticize him for being lazy, but Frederick insists that what he's doing is important - he's collecting words and colors. When winter finally comes, of course, the food Frederick's family gathered sustains them. But eventually the food runs out and it is Frederick's vivid memories of the colors of spring, as well as his poems and stories, that take the other mice's minds off their troubles and get them through the winter.
I don't think there's a better book about the importance of nurturing the imagination than Frederick. When Lionni first wrote it, in 1966, it became an instant classic. Today it's not just a great children's book, it's a crucial one.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kara Reuter on September 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
In a gentle and lyrical turn, Lionni's Frederick is the story of a family of mice preparing for winter. One mouse - Frederick - does not gather corn, nuts, and wheat along with the others and instead sits apart explaining that he is gathering sunrays, colors, and words. Although reproachful of his apparent idleness, in the depth of winter, the other mice come to appreciate Frederick's ability to entertain them by sparking their imaginations. Lionni employs color, texture, and shape in his collages comprised of torn and cut paper in solid colors and patterns pieced together into landscapes. Each collage stretches across both pages and bleeds to the edges of the page; by means of the layers of paper, the illustrations have an enormous sense of depth and presence. Visually, the illustrations dominate the pages, with the text appearing in the upper left corner. At times, the illustrations elaborate on Lionni's spare text, while at other times the illustrations offer an abstracted version of the concrete details mentioned in the text. In the final pages of the story, the integration of the text and images is complete, as the text itself becomes an element of the collage. Lionni's language is simple, appropriate for beginning readers, but poetic as well, as befits a book about a mouse-poet. Ultimately, Frederick encourages us to respect others' differences and reminds us of the power and value of imagination.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Char Marie Bush on December 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book has followed me around for 37 years. I still have the original copy from childhood, torn and tattered but also I keep newer ones in my healing library for my patients. This book explains meditation, the power of the heart and openness better than any other I have yet to encounter.

It is important to cultivate heart in our children and imagination. In our busyminded and action oriented world, kids need permission to slow down and use their imagination in a good way. This book teaches this and it teaches it well.

I will always love Frederick! He is one of my childhood "teachers" who gave me permission to dream and think warm thoughts. He shows the power of heart and mind together - and that above all things it is okay to be yourself, and to be "different."
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