________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 39. . . .June 7, 2013


Harry Flammable.

Frank O’Keefe.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2012.
171 pp., trade pbk., EPub. & PDF, $12.99 (pbk.), $8.99 (Epub.), $12.99 (PDF).
ISBN 978-1-4597-0454-1 (pbk), ISBN 978-1-4597-0456-5 (EPub.), ISBN 978-1-4597-0455-8 (PDF).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Amy Trepanier.

** /4



I groaned. “I can’t wait for Monday. An investigation.”

… “It was his own fault,” Celia said. “I heard he was a bit of a jerk and has been giving room service a rough time. If you get asked, just tell them what happened.”

“Who’ll believe me? It’s my word against the great Johnny Random. And then there’s my reputation. You know what they call me?”

“You mean Harry Flammable? I wondered about that. So tell me.”

I did- all the crazy incidents that had happened to earn me my nickname. Celia was in stitches, laughing.

“Except for maybe the grass fire incident, none of them were your fault. Well, I guess you did light the Bunsen burner in science class. But you’ve just been unlucky.”

“Yeah, but how unlucky can you get?”


Harry Flanagan, known by most as Harry Flammable, is no stranger to disaster. Wherever he goes, fire seems to follow. In reality, Harry is not pyromaniac- he derives no pleasure from setting things (including other people) on fire- he simply has a knack for finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

     Harry desires nothing more than to earn a position with Pocket Money Pictures film production company as part of his high school work experience program. He fails to realize this dream, but his disappointment is tempered by the fact that the company chooses Celia, his crush, for the position. When the city throws a banquet for the production company and the stars of a new movie to be filmed locally, Harry happily finds himself at the event as a member of The Ritz Hotel Catering staff serving the banquet. Unfortunately for Harry, his disastrous, fire-starter nature strikes again, and he unwittingly ignites the film’s leading man with a little help from a flaming crépe Suzette and a bit of bad behavior on the part of the movie star himself.

     A doubly dejected Harry is fired by the carnivorous Ritz Hotel Manager, only to find himself celebrated by Pocket Money Picture’s producer and film crew for ridding them of the insufferable actor, Johnny Random, who is replaced by a backup in light of the scandal. Subsequently, Harry is offered a position as an extra in the film, and he joins his crush on set for the remainder of the filming process. Several days into filming, Harry saves himself and his crush from sudden death when a scorned Johnny Random tampers with a steam engine train on the set. Ultimately, Harry saves the film. The producer rewards him by promising to send him on stage to collect the award should the film win an Oscar, and Harry “Flammable” earns a new reputation as a hero.

     While Harry Flammable will appeal to some younger teens, particularly boys who may be able to relate to the protagonist’s disastrous nature, the book suffers from a lack of clear direction. The story, at times, comes across as plot-less and lacks the degree of hilarity necessary to make up for a weak storyline. The climax occurs quite suddenly, with little buildup. The few highlights of the story include a handful of laugh-out-loud funny episodes involving Harry’s highly eccentric great-aunt and his pet iguana, Ralph.


Amy Trepanier is the Teen Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

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

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