Full Title: (The First Unlikely Exploit; ) The Fall of Fergal -- or Not So Dingly in The Dell.
Author: Philip Ardagh
Illustrator: David Roberts
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 2004
ISBN: 0-8050-7476-7

An odd little children’s book. Just over a hundred pages long, written in a very silly style, but the main theme of the book is Fergal falling to his violent death. His fall, his splat, the cleanup afterwards. He’s dead. And boy, do we hear all about it.

A bit like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, except much sillier. The author is constantly breaking the fourth wall and talking to the readers and himself. There are bad jokes, and funny jokes, digressions, unlikely events, and silliness of all sorts.

The story centers around five McNally children, who live with their drunken father in a house without plumbing, telephone, or parents (the father has a note from his doctor excusing him from parenting). But there is a ray of sunshine in this dismal existence -- Le Fay McNally has just won her way into the finals of the Tap n’ Type typing contest, and is on her way to the city with dreams of fame and fortune – or at least a dream of getting out of the house temporarily. He brothers and sisters all come with her – sneaking into the hotel, as they can’t possibly afford to pay for a room (the Tap n’ Type people will pay for only one person).

Well, I want to avoid spoilers, but that whole typing contest thing takes up half the book, and alternates with Fergal’s actual fall, which is the substance of the other half. Eventually the two stories catch up with each other. It all makes sense. Fergal is dead.

Spoilers!

So I lied when I said I was avoiding spoilers. There is no need for you to read this, unless maybe you are deciding whether to get this book for your child, and are confused about just how gruesome it really is. Well, it’s gruesome, all right, but at the very end… Fergal’s brain is stolen by a strange little man, who is looking for body parts for his Master. This is all we learn this book. But I suspect that Fergal will be back. Does that alleviate the mental trauma of reading (over and over again) about a little kid falling to his death? I like to think so…

End of Spoilers.

This was a fun book – I plan on reading the others in the series and others by this author. Of course it is a children’s book, which probably means that most of you aren’t interested in it, but if you have kids, they might like it. You might like it too. It might be a fun read-aloud book, although the narrator talking in odd ways (in parentheses, to himself, etc.) might cause some difficulties. It’s also a quick, short book, good for someone just starting on chapter books.

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