Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) by A F Harrold
|Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) by A F Harrold|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A good debut novel, let down by slightness of plot and the feel it's advertising the rest in the series.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: June 2012|
The number of times the fictional cliche of the boy who ran away to the circus has been used are beyond count. Here though is the boy who appears, from his clown mother and strongman father's point of view, to have run away FROM the circus. The truth, of course, is more unusual. In trying to return a dropped library book, Fizz gets enamoured of the opportunity at his local branch, but this captivation leads to a captivity of a more physical kind...
Taking a boy, making him very unusual and putting him in a bizarre circumstance, told in a quirky way, is getting to be a bit of a cliche itself. Harrold, in his first novel, does well in bringing his own personality to the pages, as in Philip Ardagh's wacky juvenilia. He is chatty, wrapping each chapter up with a comment about the state of play en route to the next, and is quite happy to put chunks of writing in brackets (and then, within those, divert himself to talk about something else slightly less relevant (and then do it again (see what I did there?))).
The biggest flaw however is in the plot. Fizz leaves the circus, gets captured, finds his new reality, and escapes, the end. I enjoyed all of that, and I liked Harrold's setting up of Fizz's friendless, used-to-the-bizarre world, and how strange what is common or garden to us things could be for him. But in thinking of passing my copy of this to a grandmother I know whose relatives are of the target age, I found a nicely teasing couple of pages to read to her to whet her appetite - and then saw what should have been a plot-point building to the crux of it all, was two-thirds of the way through.
Aligned with this imbalance is the feeling that this is just the opening for a series, and indeed there will be more, come 2013. There is fun to be had here, in character, plot and delivery, and many clever touches, but too often I found this a pilot episode - too much introduction, too little to resolve, and too little left over for the main adventures to come. I have no objection to the idea of reading those future volumes, but they need to be a lot more substantial.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The greatest adventure featuring a weird boy, a circus and a large cat - different to the lion Fizzlebert knows - remains the trilogy starting with The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley. For more action focussing on libraries, we loved The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook.
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