Author: Gene Stratton-Porter
Freckles was an assigned reading for my seventh grader's "not a homeschool co-op". The program's literature study guide is intended to be done with the parent and in my opinion the only way to have legitimate parent/child discussion is if the parent has read the book also. Once I started reading it aloud to him, I could not stop my curiosity so I read it to myself over a couple of days. It hooked me and I wanted to find out what happened.
Freckles was published in 1904. The story of the female author is interesting and worthy of a few minutes of your time. A few things I will share that are important to know about her that relate to this novel are that Stratton-Porter lived near the Limberlost Swamp in Indiana, which is the setting of this story. She was a naturalist and nature lover and was concerned over loss of habitat of the swamp; her love of the birds and wild creatures is evident in this book. Some elements of her own life are idential to the books' character: "Bird Woman".
Freckles is the main character, a twenty year old man, an orphan raised in an orphanage and whose former foster parents abused him. Freckles has only one hand, a problem that makes finding paid employment difficult. Being poorly educated did not allow him to find work in certain career fields. He is homeless at the start of the story and winds up being hired by a lumber company owner to guard the Limberlost Swamp from tree poachers for a year before the trees will be harvested.
Several times daily Freckles must hike the perimeter of the fenced in swamp. He spends all his time alone and soon comes to befriend the birds and wild creatures of the swamp. He rents a room in the home of an empty nester couple and they become parent figures to Freckles, especially the woman as a positive mother figure. The lumber company owner also takes a liking to him and becomes a father figure.
Later Freckles comes to know Bird Woman, a naturalist who takes bird photographs and publishes articles about birds and a sixteen year old girl who is referred to as Angel. He falls in love with Angel. Later poachers come to the swamp to try to steal the trees. There is some action and adventure as Freckles tries to defend the property he is paid to protect. An accident occurs. Freckles is still unhappy about his past and hates thinking that his parents abused him so badly that it caused the loss of his hand. I can't tell you more or the story will be spoiled.
While the book has some progressive ideas with its two powerful and strong female characters (which is fine by me) it otherwise is an old-fashioned book with characters full of positive character traits. The Bad Guys are clearly full of sin and devoid of worthy character traits, it's all quite black and white. I can see why so many Christian homeschoolers have their children read books by Stratton-Porter. My only complaint is the romantic love part is a bit saccharine and predictable, but I let this go since I did enjoy the story. This is also a G rated tale, something else that most parents will like. The book is infused with an appreciation for wild plants, trees, and wild creatures. One unresolved problem for me was that Freckles came to love the swamp but how much destruction his father figure lumber company owner will inflict on the swamp was skirted. It was briefly stated that the land may wind up being clear cut and used for farm land, which is what happened in real life to The Limberlost Swamp. I felt that Freckles should have been angry or worried about this issue.
This book is available as a free eBook download from Amazon.com. You probably can read it free online. It is also available in softcover book.
I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It.
Gene Stratton-Porter also wrote A Girl of the Limberlost which is about a naturalist girl. I have not read that book yet.
Note: If you do not want to read plot spoilers DO NOT read the Wikipedia article for this book.