Bolger works hard to tell a story with just 59 words—something of a feat.
Unfortunately, the instructional goal and an untrustworthy narrator overshadow Ed and Fred’s misadventures. Orange Ed and purple Fred, vaguely bean-shaped cartoon creatures, act out the words of an omniscient narrator. Fred’s words are printed in speech bubbles, while Ed silently responds to the narrator’s prompts. By the eighth cartoon panel, Fred figures out this structure and speaks directly to the narrator. He grows increasingly unhappy to find himself the butt of the rather mean-spirited narrator’s jokes, not unlike the daisy-headed Daffy in the classic “Duck Amuck.” When he refuses to run while wearing a chicken suit, tigers and gorillas appear, and Fred gives in. Additional reading practice is provided when sight words are repeated as environmental print, including Fred’s sign reading, “I want OUT of this book.” Told “it was just a joke,” he responds with a sign that reads, “Well, it was not funny.” They seem to negotiate a truce but then: “POOF!” Fred is humiliated again. The list of sight words to practice is split between the beginning of the book and the endpapers, which may confuse young learners. Words not on the lists (“welcome,” “jungle,” “underpants”) depend on context clues.
Like Dick and Jane, Ed and Fred provide a way to practice a boring but necessary beginning reading skill. It’s too bad their narrator is not as nice as Dick and Jane’s. (Early reader. 5-8)