The Complete Adventures of Figaro and Rumba written by Anna Fienberg and illustrated by Stephen Michael King (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781760292997
Reviewed by Daniela Andrews
The highly imaginative tales of Figaro and Rumba are written by Anna Fienberg, author of the Tashi books, and accompanied with full colour pictures by the talented Stephen Michael King. Both books in the series have been published together for the first time in a colourful, eye-catching paperback.
Figaro (an excitable, adventure-seeking dog) and Rumba (a sensible, musical cat) have been the best of friends since they met in Cuba. The first story, Figaro and Rumba and the Crocodile Café, is driven by the characters’ desire to get on ‘the Very Fast Train’. They seem destined to keep missing it though, with one zany adventure after another. The story is fast-paced, enticing readers to keep turning the pages to find out whether Figaro and Rumba ever do get on the train. Eventually, they meet a sly, Cuban crocodile who gains Rumba’s trust. It’s a good thing Figaro’s instincts are on high alert though, because something just doesn’t seem right.
The second story, Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats, is far more musical in nature. (You might find yourself tapping along to an imaginary Cuban beat!) Rumba seems quite at home singing with the Cool Cats, but Figaro is bored. The cats just want to sing all day and he can’t join in because their leader, Marta, does not like his singing. Plus, he’s feeling disturbed about that grey monster he keeps seeing. When he meets another like-minded adventurer, Dora, they sneakily take Marta’s car and go exploring. Their adventure doesn’t go smoothly though and, in trying to fix things, Figaro winds up meeting the ‘monster’, joining forces with Rumba again, and discovering a musical talent he never knew he had.
These entertaining stories about friendship are great for 5–8 year-olds. The chapters are short, with lots of dialogue. Much humour is provided in Figaro and Rumba’s banter, along with their dog and cat-like differences. King’s comical illustrations are naturally complementary, appearing on almost every single page. Fienberg’s writing is superb. The Cuban accents are perfectly portrayed, and there are some great alliterative lines like: ‘Isn’t he a rascal, a ruffian, a rogue and a reptile?’ The ending is terrific, both closing the stories and alluding to further adventures.