2016 Note: Strangest thing, I am getting ready to write & post a review for the 5th book in this series and am just now seeing that this first book is not listed anywhere on my shelves, even though I wrote a review for it in March of 2015?! So for bookish housekeeping's sake, I am reposting this review now that I have the book back on my shelves... just wondering where it went before?!
Review from March 2015:
Freddy, an octopus, transfers to a new school but immediately struggles to fit in. The fish point and laugh at him because he has the body of an octopus but a head like a shark. Miss Mermaid, the teacher, points out that the students like her and she's half-person/half-fish. My favorite though was the janitor seahorse who points out "look at me! I'm not chubby, I'm pregnant!", teaching child readers how silly and hurtful it can be to put labels on others, or try to fit everyone in a specific box. Feeling stronger with all this support behind him, Freddy the Octopus points out that he has the strength of an octopus but can also be as fast a swimmer as a shark. His classmates then get the idea that maybe if Freddy joins the school swimming team, maybe they could win against reigning champs The Baracudas for once!
Such a sweet story that's sure to get young readers cheering Freddy on. I was especially touched at the page that shows Freddy saying a prayer actually thanking God for making him different and unique.
The one concern I had -- and this could just be me reading into things too far -- but the whole thing with Freddy's classmates learning to like him after they thought maybe he could win them a swimming medal. My concern would be that some young kids might interpret that as people will like you as long as you can get them what they want. Then again, that can be something parents can clarify and discuss with their children.
I also recommend picking up a copy of this book to see the jaw-dropping, stunning illustrations done by Dan Sharp, who has previously done work for Disney, Warner Bros. and American Greetings Card Co. I think young readers will really enjoy its Finding Nemo-esque feel. Fast Freddy has been named as a 2015 finalist for the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) Ben Franklin Award, in the Children's / YA book cover design category.