Authors: A. F. Harrold
For Mrs Coates
What some people said about Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy who Ran Away from the Circus (and joined the librar
I found myself laughing a lot at the author’s hilarious commentary, and at Fizzlebert’s funny antics. I would definitely recommend this – and the illustrations are awesome.
We Love This Book
A riotous romp which will be loved by all fans of Mr Gum.
An unusual, comical and engaging one-sided conversation with the author – a conversation which would read very well aloud.
Books for Keeps
In which introductions are made and in which the reader is welcomed to the book
It began with a pair of false teeth, or rather it began
a pair of false teeth.
Actually, now I think about it, that’s not exactly the beginning of the story. It might have begun with a red nose. A clown’s red nose, the day
went missing. But really it began well before that too. I suppose it began with the letter the Ringmaster received one Wednesday morning . . . or maybe it started before that, even.
Oh, beginnings are tricky, aren’t they? You think you’ve got it pinned down and then you look again and there’s some loose thread dangling out the other side. You tug on it and soon the whole thing’s unravelled on the floor at your feet like a horrible jumper you got for Christmas.
For example, let’s say you wanted to tell the story of why you were late for school this morning. You might start by saying you were late because you didn’t leave the house early enough. That’s pretty straightforward. But why didn’t you leave on time? Maybe your little brother was making a nuisance of himself, and you needed to change your shirt because of the porridge. So, that’s what made you late. But then, you might ask why the little brat was being so annoying, and it might be because he didn’t get enough sleep. There was that thunderstorm in the night and he’s so soft that he’s still scared of storms. Well, surely
the beginning? But how did the thunderstorm get there? ‘There was a cold depression over the Bay of Biscay,’ the weatherman might say. ‘But, where’s the Bay of Biscay?’ you might ask. ‘Down near Spain,’ he might explain.
But even blaming Spain for making you late for school isn’t the end of it. Why do you have to go to school in the first place? After all, if you didn’t need to go, you couldn’t be late. So then you could look back at the history of education and find out who invented the first school (and why they decided it should begin so early in the morning). And on top of that, it might be worth asking your parents some questions. For instance, why on earth did they want to get themselves another child, when they already had lovely little you? And your mother might say that she looked at you as a little baby, fast asleep in your cot, and worried you’d get lonely as you got older, and your father might rustle his newspaper and say that it wasn’t his idea.
So, you see, beginnings really are hard things to pin down.
Now I think about it, the missing false teeth actually come later, much later (not until the end of Chapter Seven).
Before that there’s a boy I ought to introduce. He’s a normal enough lad, about
wide . . . But, oh dear, hang on – perhaps I’m still getting ahead of myself. I’m assuming that you know what a boy is. Maybe that’s an assumption too far. Let’s backtrack a little.
A boy is like a girl, but not as clean. Like a man, but not as tall. Like a dog, but not as hairy (usually). They wear clothes, run around noisily and wipe their noses up their sleeves.
This particular boy’s called Fizzlebert. It’s a silly name, I know. But his mum’s a clown and his dad’s a strongman, so, frankly, he’s lucky he didn’t end up with an even sillier one. He spends his life travelling with the circus, and since most of his friends are circus acts with all manner of weird and wonky names and titles, he doesn’t often think about the
of his name. At least, not as often as I have to.
He’s not the one who has to write this book, you see. It’s a long word to type, ‘Fizzlebert’, although thankfully easy to spell, so I shouldn’t really grumble. I mean, if I had to write ‘bureaucracy’ (a word I find almost impossible to spell in one go) on every page, well, then I really would have something to complain about.
But, fortunately, although in all circuses there is
bureaucracy, which is to say paperwork, Fizz’s story doesn’t involve the accountancy department, the Health and Safety inspector’s clipboard or the filing cabinet of performers’ contracts which sits at the back of the Ringmaster’s office-cum-caravan. Or not very much, anyway.
So, where were we? I think we’d got
far . . .
Fizzlebert Stump (who I most often just call Fizz in order to save on ink) is a boy who lives in the circus. He has a selection of library cards, a pen pal called Kevin, red hair, a dashing old ringmaster’s frockcoat, and the ability to hold his breath for just as long as it takes an audience to become impressed by a small boy putting his head in a lion’s mouth, and this book is the story of just one of his adventures.
And that’s all I’ve got to say to get the introduction out of the way. Now, roll on Chapter Two, eh?
In which lunch is served and in which some strangers are met
Fizzlebert was sat in the circus’s Mess Tent. If you’re wondering what a Mess Tent is, then I suppose you’ve never been in the army, which, looking at you, doesn’t entirely surprise me. The Mess is the name soldiers give to the place where they eat, what they call their dining hall or canteen. It’s an odd name, especially since they’re usually very neat, but the name is the name, sensible or not, and I’m not going to argue with a soldier.
Although a circus isn’t an army (it normally has fewer guns and the uniforms are less, well, uniform), the Mess is also what the circus folk call their food hall, or more correctly, their food tent. They do so for much more obvious reasons. (If the reasons don’t seem obvious, why don’t you give a clown a plate of sausage and mash, a bucket of custard and half a dozen soft boiled eggs, and see what happens?)
Fizz sat at his table stirring a great steaming bowl of stew, dumplings and popcorn. (Cook claimed the popcorn added texture and Fizz couldn’t disagree.) Just as he was about to lift the first dumpling to his lips a loud honking made him jump and a pungent waft of mackerel-flavoured air slapped him round the nose.
Fish, the circus’s sea lion, was looking up at him with his enormous wet black round eyes. He fluttered his thick eyelashes as if to say, ‘Do you have any food to spare, dear sir, for an ’ungry old sea lion?’
Knowing he’d get no peace until the old flipper-flapper had been fed, Fizz offered him the gravy-covered dumpling on the end of his fork.
Fish sniffed deeply at the steaming ball of dough, and with a flick of his head knocked it from Fizz’s hand, balanced it, still stuck on the fork, on the tip of his nose, leant back, and flapped his front flippers together with a great wet noise. Then he jiggled his head from one side to the other, without dropping the fork and dumpling set, honked once and flipped them into the air. They flew high up toward the canvas roof, twirling round and round, before plunging, dumpling first, toward the table.
In a shocking, snapping burst of teeth, Fish caught them in his mouth.
With a twitch of his whiskers and a horrible slurping sound he started chewing. After a moment it became obvious that there was nothing fishy about the stew-soaked ball of flour, and with a loud harrumph and a mordant kipper-flavoured burp, Fish swallowed the dumpling and spat out the fork.
Fizz watched as it flew through the air, spinning and soaring in a graceful arc over the tables and clowns, and landed with a tiny tinny tinkle in the dirt, right in front of a pair of highly polished boots. A little dust and a little gravy splattered across the perfect toes.
Fortunately the Ringmaster didn’t notice Fizz’s stray fork. He was too busy talking. Talking just loud enough for Fizz to be able to hear the noise, but not to be able to make out the words. It was an annoying way for a man to talk, Fizz reckoned, but then half the grownups he knew fitted into that category: annoying.
Fizz had seen the Ringmaster before. He had seen him almost every day of his life (there was one Thursday three years earlier when the Ringmaster had lost the key to his caravan but even then Fizz had heard him shouting from inside). So he was pretty familiar with how the Ringmaster usually looked and he could tell, from just the merest glance, that today the Ringmaster looked different. His buttons were polished just that little bit brighter, and his boots were polished just that little bit browner and his hair, while not being polished, had been brushed quite thoroughly.