________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 21 . . . . June 19, 1998

cover The Flimflam Man.

Darleen Bailey Beard. Illustrated by Eileen Christelow.
New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux (Distributed by U of T Press), l998.
85 pp, cloth, $20.00.
ISBN 0-374-32346-1.

Subject Headings:
Swindlers and swindling-Fiction.

Grades 2 - 5 / Ages 7 - 10.
Review by Jennifer Johnson.

* /4


It all started one scorching July day in l950. I'd been sitting in front of the Wide-A-Wake cafe since before the morning rush. The sun was burning my neck, and sweat dripped down my jumper, making it all wet and clammy, when along came mean Clara Jean.
image In The Flimflam Man, 10-year old Bobbie Jo recalls the visit to Wetumka, Oklahoma, by F. Bam Morrison, an "advance man" for Bohn's United Circus Shows. What F. Bam Morrison achieves for himself is a shopping list of needs and appetites compared to the benefits he brings to Bobbie Jo and her confirmed enemy, now friend, Clara Jean. The former list includes meals, clean clothes, a hotel room and free gas; the latter include speaking confidence, friendship and courage.

      Although based on a true story, this book does not hold together effectively as a work of fiction for children. The author's note explaining the event appears at the beginning rather than at the end of the book. This immediately detracts from the reader's engagement in the tale. Although many young readers are keen to learn the background to a work of historical fiction, that interest comes most readily after the characters have already begun to live in the reader's imagination. The author does not create her sense of place and time well enough and tries to add a stutter issue as well as the idea of small-town tolerated neglect into the mix. These elements might have worked in a longer fictional account but merely distract from the excitement and mystery of exposing the Flimflam man.

      Illustrations by Eileen Christelow maintain her usual high standards. The creator of the monkey brothers and sisters of picturebook fame may reach new readers in this book; however, her black and white illustrations do not have the appeal of her colour cover illustration. The exaggerated quirky style is fun nonetheless and will probably satisfy.

      This book does not match the promise of the true event on which it is based. As fiction, it overloads an anecdotal account with too many issues which detract from the growing friendship between the two girls. Books such as the Mary Marony or Amber Brown tales speak much more effectively to the intended audience.

Not recommended.

Jennifer Johnson is a librarian in Ottawa, Ontario.

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

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364