________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 10 . . . . November 4, 2011


Farticus Maximus and Other Stories That Stink!

Felice Arena.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2011.
183 pp., pbk., $6,99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0792-1.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Todd Kyle.

*** /4



Jack wasn't really listening to what the priest was saying about his grandfather. Instead he just stared at Grandpa Cal's coffin in a daze. Sobs and sniffles bounced off the cold stone church walls as one by one members of Jack's family got up to speak about Grandpa Cal. Finally, it was Jack's turn. He shuffled up to the microphone, which was centred in the front of the altar.

He had written a speech the night before, but as he reached for it in his pocket he heard himself say, "What am I doing? He wouldn't want this. There's only one thing I can do."

Jack took the microphone out of its stand and pointed it towards his butt.

You can guess what happened next.


Everyone gasped in horror especially the priest. "What do you think you're doing?" he growled.

"Well," said Jack with a grin, "it's better out than in."

Jack turned to the coffin and whispered:

"I love you, Grandpa."

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,

...with a butterfly kiss here and butterfly kiss there, he'd end his prey's life...

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.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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