Friday 17 August 2012

Fizzlebert Stump: The boy who ran away from the circus (and joined the library)

Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) by A.F. Harrold (Bloomsbury Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978 1 4088 3003 1
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Fizzlebert Stump is the only kid in the Circus where he lives with his mum, a clown and his dad, the circus strongman. To people outside, Fizzlebert's life would seem exciting, especially as his part in the Big Top performance is to put his head inside the mouth of a lion. But he is lonely.

Things start to change when he finds a library book and his (rather hopeless) history teacher, Dr Surprise, the circus magician, advises him to take it back to the library so the boy who borrowed it wouldn't get into trouble. But it is Fizz who gets into trouble, and the library can't be blamed. Who would think a couple of elderly pensioners could turn kidnappers?

The author, A.F. Harrold is a performance poet and this shines through with his descriptive language and very different writing style. He breaks the rule of author intrusion extravagantly, and unfolds his story in conversational style. Because his main character is very innocent of life outside the circus environment he capitalizes on Fizzlebert's naivety, which also enables him to emphasise safety rules for young readers, such as why kids shouldn't talk to strangers, particularly ones who tell lies.

"Stuffed with laughs" is the comment on the cover, but I found the going fairly bland for the first few chapters. Having said that, many bookworm kids who love stories unfolding in a more pedestrian, even distracting, manner will be hooked. There is plenty to smile about as the plot picks up pace. A.F. Harrold's imagination soars, his descriptive words multiply, and the action sets in, bringing his humorous story to a most enjoyable end.

Fizzlebert Stump is a read as quirky as the title, and a lot of kids will embrace giggling along with the writer as equals. I'd recommend it also for writers of children's literacy as an example of how a book can be written in a very different way with much success.

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