Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling by Ricky Gervais

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Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling by Ricky Gervais

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The fourth volume in this handy guide to Flanimals life introduces new critters of the insect-like kind, then horrifyingly turns into a depiction of a mass extinction. Can Flanimal life, and the series, ever return?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 64 Date: October 2007
Publisher: Faber Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0571238514

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Call me daft, but I just love the Flanimals. Sure, a lot of them are very ugly, many too big for me (and the handy size comparison chart with each of the indispensable volumes so far always alerts me to which is big enough to eat me whole), and some have awful gloop to spread around, but on the whole I would actually appreciate some of these creatures living in my neck of the woods. Take the Zub, a newly introduced insectoid Flanimal. It just looks so cute in the picture, and the typically excellent illustrations have had their sharp lines, cute (or nasty) eyes and bold colours added to with delicate insect wings. If the illustrator, Rob Steen, had his name anywhere near as prominent as Ricky Gervais does on these books the world would be a fairer one.

However it is Gervais who has come up with the information we need about the Flanimals, and the scientific names of them are just as spot-on as always. The hand-sized waspish thing commonly called the Vap is more officially the Swat Jasper - of course, what else could it possibly be?

Added to that, the creature guide contains the usual gibberish-sounding detail - this frappy flap oobrah is a frerbery bulb sniffler, concerns the Mov - a very true-to-life moth equivalent - and is as always told to us with such sincerity. It's almost as if someone somewhere sensed a strong feeling that these Flanimals did not actually exist, and wished to counter that.

Unfortunately, by the end of this book they don't exist. The Day of the Bletchling has come upon the world of the Flanimals, which results in what can only be described as carnage. The Flanimal Armageddon no less, which is shown to us in huge full-colour, full-page spreads of almost Bosch-like scope.

This means that a lot of the Flanimals from past volumes have been cut and pasted in to the present volume, but it's done expertly, and it only goes to remind me how much I love the Baby Mernimblers.

If this book then is truly the end of this series of creature guides, and the foreword is further evidence of that, it has gone out with a bang. The style has branched out from just telling us of the Flanimal ecology - who eats what and how - into more detailed stories of the Flanimal world. Not brilliantly complex stories - otherwise I wouldn't have given away so much of this one here - but if these are supposed to be children's books, then the pictures are still as delightfully inventive and perfectly styled as always, and the words have the same droll narration, and possibly even a message for us all (and I don't mean about trusting Loan Figgers to throw rocks).

I don't think these books are good just for children. I for one have paid out for all the first three (OK, they are the sort of book that comes with a very handy reduced price online once all the Christmas novelty market has died off), and the mix of the nonsensical, scatty (and scatological) and just sheer artistry of them is right up my street.

I wish for only a few things, as a result of Ricky Gervais and his Flanimals books. I wish he'd get a better laugh for all the corpsing he does on his DVDs. I wish I could draw anything like as well as Rob Steen does for his books. I wish I had programmed a key to enter Flanimals into Word in one go rather than having to type it out each and every time. But mostly, of course, I wish I had something like his talent, which includes the ability to create such winsome and enjoyable fripperies as these books.

This one shows no loss of form, no diminished returns. In fact it might be the best since the original book, and the "free" poster shows potential for lots of iconic image-parodying in the future, as a side-line. It is supposed to remind one of Jaws, isn't it?

Just for providing this spell-checker with more work than it has ever had to do in the creation of this review, I would like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of this book to the Bookbag to sample.

Booklists.jpg Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling by Ricky Gervais is in the Top Ten Quirky Kids' Books.

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Buy Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling by Ricky Gervais at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Flanimals: The Day of the Bletchling by Ricky Gervais at Amazon.com.


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