I always get a little parenting thrill when I share a book from my childhood with my 8 year old son and he loves it just as much as I did when I was his age. Today’s book was an absolute hit with both of us, though it’s no surprise, coming from a queen of the YA (young adult) literary world, the one and only Judy Blume. Now 82 years old, Blume’s best loved and known character may be Farley Drexel Hatcher, AKA ‘Fudge’ of such stories as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge.
But my son actually didn’t connect with Fudge. In fact, he was downright furious with him at the end of Superfudge and despite the fact that we have other books remaining in the boxed set, he doesn’t want to read them. So it’s a no on Fudge for him. However, Freckle Juice is a completely different story. By comparison to her other books, Freckle Juice is a wisp of a chapter book; a super short and entertaining story, only 5 chapters and 57 pages long, published in 1971.
The story is absolutely relatable. Andrew wants something his friend has but in his case, it’s not as easy as working hard for what he wants or saving up his allowance to buy it or asking for it for Christmas. In Andrew’s case, he wants freckles and lots of them. His good friend Nicky Lane has them. They practically cover his entire body! If he had as many freckles as Nicky, he’d never have to wash his ears or neck again… his mother wouldn’t be able to tell if he was dirty or not!
Andrew has lots of time to stare at Nicky’s freckles, sitting behind him in class. Instead of paying attention to his teacher, he spends his time counting freckles. He’s counted as high as 86 but always seems to be interrupted by his teacher, calling him to join his reading group. Distracted from his reading by thoughts of Nicky’s freckles, Andrew screws up the courage to ask him how he got them. All he could say was that he was born with them. Some help he was!
His classmate Sharon notes his interest in Nicky’s freckles and offers Andrew a solution. It just so happens that she has a secret recipe for Freckle Juice, a concoction that is sure to give him the spots he so desires! The only catch is that it will cost him 50 cents. That was 5 whole weeks of allowance! But the more he thinks it over, he figures there’s no real risk, as he’ll just ask for his money back if it doesn’t work.
After a bungled negotiation ends in his teacher Miss Kelly intercepting the recipe, Andrew must wait until the end of the school day before he learns what it takes to create Freckle Juice. He runs straight home, anxious to start mixing ingredients before remembering that his mother is at the neighbor’s house. After an excruciating exchange between his mother and her friends that slows his progress, Andrew is free to read the recipe for the first time.
He’s happy to find that he will only need everyday kitchen staples, like ketchup, lemon juice, mayonnaise, pepper and salt… however, his mom uses these items all the time and they’ve never resulted in freckles. Maybe it’s critical that they all be mixed together and consumed at the same time? He figures that the recipe cost him 50 cents, he might as well try it.
It smelled awful but it tasted even worse! Andrew figures that Sharon didn’t think he could swallow it, let alone quickly as she’d advised. Well he’d show her! He gulped it down, despite the urge to be sick. It was horrible but it was the only way to get what he wanted. After downing a glass, he crawled into his mother’s room to look at himself in the mirror. He waited to see what would happen. He didn’t have to wait long. His stomach hurt so badly that when his mother called out to him, he could barely muster a whimper. Upon finding him, his mother is worried that he has a case of appendicitis and runs to phone the doctor from the phone in the kitchen. Once she sees the mess Andrew has made, his stomachache starts to make more sense.
His mother wasn’t happy with what he’d done but she gave him medicine for his pain and sent him to bed. He had terrible dreams about a huge green monster who forced him to drink Freckle Juice three times a day. But instead of Andrew sprouting freckles, the monster did instead! After a second dose of medicine and more sleep, he awakes feeling better, though still freckle-less. He decides to take matters into his own hands.
Armed with a blue marker, he leaves for school looking like his every day, normal self. But a couple of blocks from school, he stops to examine himself in a car’s mirror, adorning his face and neck with blue dots. He knew that they didn’t pass for freckles but they were something! He was proud of his spots, even when his classmates snickered at them and asked who ever heard of blue freckles.
Throughout the morning, he saw his teacher Miss Kelly stealing perplexed looks at his face, though she didn’t say anything until the end of the day. The book concludes with Miss Kelly giving him her secret remedy for freckle removal. She tells him that he is a very handsome boy without freckles. Upon hearing about the magic freckle eraser, Nicky Lane asks for a dose for himself. It turns out that he hates his freckles!
But Miss Kelly assures him that while Andrew looks great without them, Nicky is perfect just the way he is. She tells him that she’s putting away the freckle remover and she hopes she’ll never have to use it again. Out of earshot of Miss Kelly, that enterprising Sharon sidles up to Nicky, offering him a freckle removal recipe that’s been in her family for years!
Freckle Juice is a great little book for beginning and emerging readers to enjoy on their own. It’s also perfect for bedtime, as an adult reader can finish it within 30 minutes or so. I don’t know if my son will ever warm up to the remaining Fudge stories but if your kids hold less of a grudge than mine, I urge you to check out the 5 books in the series. I think this review is now longer than the entirety of Freckle Juice so I’ll leave you to your reading. Enjoy!