CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 10 . . . . November 4, 2011
The latest in what is now almost a tradition of gross-out toilet-humour books aimed squarely at young boys, Farticus Maximus is a collection of stories entirely on the subject of flatulence. The title story and its reprised "sequel" at the end tell the story of a "legendary" Roman gladiator who won his fights with his horrible smell. In "Better out than in" (excerpted above), Jack reminisces about his grandfather's renowned farts and decides to honour them at the old man's funeral. In "Pull my finger," Miles decides to attempt to become popular at school with a farting trick, only to lose his best friends and the girl he has a crush on. "Flatulence Star" is a screenplay of a television reality show that pits farting talent against a stuffy woman who objects to the subject matter. "Fartoons" is a series of fart-adapted pop culture references, including, for example, a movie called "Flatudance."
There's no denying the delightful humour and subversive appeal of books like this. And Farticus is a great combination of several media: narrative text, comics, drama, maps, diagrams, and lots of stylized dialogue text. Yet, it is lacking in the sublime wit of Captain Underpants and the comic timing of And Then It Happened, and it often seems to go a little to far into grossness for its own good, in the way of The Day My Butt Went Psycho. Some stories are delightfully silly yet have little point; others, like "Better out than in" and "Pull my finger," have a point but don't do a great job of building up to them. And there is one editing error: in a fairly genius comic twist, the title story's introduction proclaims it will substitute "butterfly kiss" for "kill" and "hug" for "stab" in order to excise the violence. Yet in this excerpt,
it would appear the substitutions have been inadvertently reversed.
Regardless, Farticus Maximus is, nonetheless, a substantial addition to the grossness canon and will easily appeal to reluctant readers, not to mention make a hilarious read aloud.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Children's Book Centre.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.