Freddy Tangles is an ordinary boy with more than his fair share of fears, and a whole lot of trouble heading his way in this humorous fiction for fans of Tom Gates and Big Nate.
Jack Brand lives in Sydney's Inner West with his partner, Sarah, and two children. He is currently a high school teacher librarian. Before that he was an English teacher, before that a lawyer, and before that a police officer. There were a few less glamorous occupations as well.
Jack wrote his first novel while living on an island and caring for his two young children. The novel turned out to be terrible, but he can at least say that the kids turned out all right. Freddy Tangles: Legend or Loser is his second novel.
Tom Jellett has illustrated a number of books for children including the junior fiction series Ted Goes Wild by Michael Wagner, the CBC Notable Picture Book Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway, and the extraordinarily successful My Dad Thinks He's Funny by Katrina Germein.
These two books by Jack Brand are easy reads and will appeal to primary school readers, up to the age of 9 or 10, who like cartoons and humour. The books are punctuated with cartoon illustrations, diagrams and two funny ants who comment on the action. The style is similar to the Big Nate and Tom Gates books.
Freddy has to deal with the usual gamut of annoying sister, school bullies and weird and crazy situations that arise repeatedly. He has to stand up for himself and his friends and shows resilience and personal strength in his dealings with both scary teachers and the school bully. Freddy discusses how to deal with bullies with his friends, and they share their strategies and support each other.
Although there are many similar books out there, these will tempt reluctant readers, and provide yet another put-upon protagonist for children to identify with. Sensitive children might find Freddy’s experiences with the school bully distressing, and indeed, the cover illustration on Champ or Chicken, in which Freddy looks rather frightened.
Reading groups can discuss how the children treat each other, what makes a good friend, what you can do if you are bullied or witness someone else being bullied, how to face your fears and why this is important, etc. Students can also discuss the role that the ants play and compare this device to similar ones used by other authors, for example, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, with their tiny margin illustrations, which often have their own story that flows alongside the main one. The illustrations will be of interest to children who like to draw as they convey some quite powerful emotions in a simple way.
Anthea Barrett, CRT, VIC
Freddy Tangles is an every-boy that many readers will relate to: he wants to be cool, he has trouble talking to girls and he often thinks before he acts.
In Champ or Chicken, Freddy accidently insults a friend and is worried that he won’t be invited to her birthday party. He also manages, in a very funny scene, to get the new boy at school offside by deliberately referring to his chronic nose-picking during an argument. Freddy’s earnest yet hilarious attempts to redress both situations will make readers laugh.
In Legend or Loser, some very real bullying issues are raised when Freddy is teased because of his name: Frederick Augustus Reginald Tangles (you can see where that’s going) and then has a run-in with the local bully. Without resorting to violence, Freddy uses people-power to overcome the bully.
Jack Brand has written two very funny stories about a boy that readers will want to have as a friend. With numerous line drawings by illustrator Tom Jellett, these books have a touch of the Wimpy Kid about them that will prove very popular, I’m sure. I am enjoying showing them to my Year 3 students.
Kate Justelius-Wright, Wahroonga Public School, NSW
Legend or Loser. My immediate thoughts are what a great book for boys. Full of things they say and talk about. It would also appeal to reluctant readers. Each page has some illustrations interwoven into the text. This makes it seem like less to read. The two ants having a conversation with each other regularly throughout the book is of added interest. Easy to read little snippets as they make comments about what is happening around them. One such comment is around the ‘10 second rule’ for food that falls on the floor. Freddy picks up and eats a discarded ice-cream, citing the 10 second rule. The ants comment that they hate that rule as the ice-cream should have been theirs.
Freddy’s Russian friend Blocker has some great sayings that could be used as a teaching point. Some of them include:
A fly cannot enter a closed mouth.
Don’t make an elephant out of a fly.
The hammer breaks glass but also forges steel.
The nicknames that are given to some of the characters also has that ‘boy’ appeal: Scabs, Blocker.
The main story is around the bully Sid. Everyone is scared of Sid. Freddy tries to find a way to help everyone. He was going to stand up to the bully even though he was scared to death. On their way to meet Sid and his gang, someone called Freddy’s friends his gang. That didn’t sit well with him. He decided quickly to change tactics and to not fight him.
This is a great story around bullies and how they become bullies and how their bullying is perpetuated by the way others react to them. A great discussion starter and would recommend as a class read for years 3 or 4.
Freddy is in trouble again in Champ or Chicken. More disgusting things like picking noses and eating it. Yuck!! Spiders crawling out of clothes, climbing naked up a tree, jumping onto a mechanical bull, naked still, all because he was trying to get away from the spiders. Freddy was trying to prove how brave he was but it wasn’t working.
Another crazy Freddy adventure this time centred around Tabby, a girl at school who is having a fantastic birthday party that Freddy is not invited to. Why? Because he made her Angryometer go off the scale. He embarrassed her in front of everyone by calling her a boy. Then it goes from bad to worse as he tries to fix it.
Again recommended for the year 4/5 readers but I think it would have a wide appeal. Easy to read text, humour and underlying messages around school relationships.
Kathy Hotz, Hercules Road State School, QLD
Freddy Tangles Legend or Loser is the first book in a new series from Jack Brand and it is great! It did take a few pages to get used to the writing style as it does run on, with the day that Freddy begins telling you about taking the first 45 pages! However, once you get used to this you quickly become engrossed in the plot. Freddy has an unfortunate name, which has led to him being teased by everyone. He's caught up in a local gang because he's too scared to say no, but when he's expected to fight another, smaller and younger, kid as an initiation, he manages to escape without fighting. This means Sid and the gang are after him, and Freddy is petrified.
The theme of bullying and exclusion is handled really well, with a satisfactory and realistic conclusion. The 9 year old son has started it and is enjoying it, and is looking forward to the second book. I love Tom Jellett's illustrations too, which punctuate the text expressively. Book 2 about Freddy Tangles - Freddy Tangles, champ or chicken - continues with the bullying theme and references the first book too. Freddy experiences bullying from the other side of the experience and realises that it can be very easy to become a bully. This is a great series for primary students and would make a great read aloud too. I think you've got a winner here and I highly recommend it for primary schools, as well as Year 7-8 students who need extra reading support.
Fiona Mackie, Teacher-Librarian, Pinehurst School, New Zealand
Freddy Tangles is an engaging book for emergent middle primary school level, which are beginning to read chapter books. Both books have colourful fonts and front covers to help Dyslexic children. Freddy Tangles gets himself into all sorts of mischief in both books. In Legend or Loser, Freddy has to come face to face with a bully as well as been bullied himself by his fellow peers. He has a friend, Tabby, that is continually giving him advice on life. Freddy is consciously trying to impress Tabby most of the time, but has difficulty talking to Tabby as he seems self-conscious around her and always says the wrong things to her.
Freddy, gets called “Fartboy,” as his full name is Frederick Augustus Reginald Tangles, by a fellow student who marks the class roll. From then on Freddy is bullied at school until he comes face to face with a real bully expelled from his school called Sid, who wants Freddy to join his gang. Eventually, Freddy refuses and stands up to Sid and his gang. Freddy, becomes well respected amongst his friends.
In Champ or Chicken, Freddy has been invited to Tabby’s biggest birthday party of the year. At Tabby’s party there will be a mechanical bull to ride. Freddy wants to do this, but once again, he’s said the wrong thing to the new boy, Hugo, who challenges Freddy to beat him at the bull ride. Freddy, accepts, but he has a fear of heights, spiders and being naked. All of Freddy’s fears come true and he finds himself riding the mechanical bull naked in front of his class mates. In the end all is forgiven and Tabby’s birthday is a success.
Some suggested teaching ideas could include that these books would be suitable to read as a classroom serial novel. The class would enjoy the humour, the pictures, particularly the drawings of the ants at the bottom of the pages where they have interesting discussions about themselves and humans. The class could have a Well Being/ Pastoral Care session discussing bullies and how to not to be bullied. As a follow on from the serial reading, the teacher may link it into a class writing session. Here children could write their own narratives based around the Freddy Tangles series. Children could plan their story; develop characters, setting, beginning, middle-problem and ending. The class may want to publish their books/stories using many of the technology websites that are now available online, such as storybird.com or storyjumper.com and share with other classes in the school. The Freddy Tangles series are funny and light hearted and children will enjoy relating the stories to their everyday lives.
Nicole Holland, Casual Relief Teacher, VIC
Two books in this series have been published this year: Legend or Loser and Champ or Chicken. Freddy is a primary school student, chronicling his life as he deals with issues many other children may identify with: bullies, sisters, school, fear and exclusion. He is an ordinary boy but has more fears than his average schoolmate; and some for good reason. Freddy has been caught up with a gang because he was too scared to refuse, but when he weasels his way out of the initiation rites of bullying a smaller child, Sid Malone, the meanest bully ever, goes after Freddy.
As if this isn’t enough to contend with, the reader also learns of the more mundane aspects of Freddy’s life. A splinter in his foot is treated with squeezing and a tetanus shot in his bum. Jellett’s cartoon-style illustration shows the splinter as something equalling the size of Freddy’s foot. (It probably was that big in Freddy’s mind). Fans of Big Nate and Greg Heffley will enjoy this series. In a school with not many fantasy readers, it will be good to be able to promote this series.
Themes of bullying, exclusion and fear are handled well with a realistic conclusion to the story.
This book would also be a good read-aloud for year 5 to year 8 classes. I would hope that through Freddy’s humorous and candid storytelling, both the bullies and the bullied would learn some life lessons.
Claire Cheeseman, Laingholm Primary, New Zealand
In this new series for boys who are independent readers Brand and Jellett introduce Freddy Tangles who is an ordinary boy to whom extraordinary things happen. Even though the events themselves are ordinary, if there is something that can go wrong then it will happen to Freddy and this makes for some really funny adventures that will appeal to those who like Big Nate and Tom Gates. Freddy is at that age that boys go through where they are awkward, accident-prone and tongue tied and so his audience will relate to him and perhaps gain some comfort in recognising themselves in him.
Freddy is a likeable lad, bold on the outside but not quite so on the inside with a group of friends like Blocker from Russia who has a quirky way of giving good advice, Scabs who is also accident prone and Tabby, a smart, straight-talking girl whom Freddy Is gradually realising is a girl. As the titles of each book suggest, Freddy encounters a major issue in each story and he has to take the actions that decide whether he is a loser or a legend, a chicken or a champ.
Liberally illustrated in cartoon style, but with more text than a graphic novel, this series has the potential to be the next big thing with the age group. It will be interesting to see how my middle-school boys respond to it.
Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, NSW