Felicity Frobisher and the Three-headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by Marcus Chown

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Felicity Frobisher and the Three-headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by Marcus Chown

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Price
Reviewed by Ruth Price
Summary: Excellent, pacy adventure for science-minded (and non-science-minded) juniors. Follow Felicity Frobisher's day accompanied by a mischievous alien – who happens to be invisible – so guess who gets the blame for any misadventures? Laugh-out-loud for adults in places - imagine the effect on children 7-11, for whom this story is perfectly pitched. Highly recommended and original, it's also bound to pique interest in the solid science behind its story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571239030

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According to Wikipedia, … a wormhole is a hypothetical topological feature of spacetime that is fundamentally a 'shortcut' through space and time. Why am I quoting physics to you, when I know nothing about it? Because this delightful story, featuring reluctant heroine Felicity Frobisher, takes the reader on a high-speed romp through space and time, slipping through wormholes which take her to Hawaii, the International Space Station, (and to school on time), before finally allowing her a well-earned rest in her cosy bed after a hectic day. Who'd have thought physics could be such fun?

Felicity's quiet daily routine is interrupted by the rumbustious Flummff, a three-headed Aldebaran dust devil – who happens to be invisible. Flummff's arrival in Felicity's bedroom via a wormhole from his planet sets the scene for the adventure that follows. By the end of the day, she has visited the International Space Station, perfected her French accent, set a killer wombat loose and spent her school detention on Hawaii. And all without being the ubiquitous, feisty, vibrant heroine – yes, Felicity is a non-rebellious, polite, well-behaved student, horrified about drawing attention to herself. She is also kind-hearted, intelligent and likeable – despite, or perhaps because of, her little streak of weary sarcasm.

The author, Marcus Chown, has written several books on quantum physics for adults, primarily for the popular science market, so all of Felicity's adventures with Flummff have the authority of an expert who is currently cosmology consultant for New Scientist magazine. This is his first novel for children. I've not read his other books, but despite being useless at physics, I feel inspired to learn more just by my encounter with Felicity. I got the sense that Chown was having as much fun as Flummff in writing this delightful children's fantasy. Its chaotic anarchy reminded me of Roald Dahl, with an underlying morality which puts paid to bullies – Felicity's aggressor will surely learn her lesson after her encounter with wormholes.

Chown can also neatly describe certain characters and events, without falling into stereotypes – I laughed out loud at his description of the misery of the school cross-country run, with PE teacher Miss Sprint staying behind in the warmth and comfort of the changing room with her feet up, picking her toes with a toothpick and flicking through the latest issue of Practical Tank Maintenance. I knew it, I knew that was what my PE teacher did, as we huffed and puffed sweatily around the school boundary.

I also enjoyed the amusing line drawings by Ned Joliffe, which reminded me of Ronald Searle in the Nigel Molesworth series (high praise, as any fule kno). The novel closes very satisfactorily with a double-page spread of science fun facts.

Thanks to Faber for providing this jolly, yet strangely educational, story to the Bookbag. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can see it being not only a popular home read, but also working well as a themed story for junior schools doing projects on space. Let's hope Flummff does come back to visit Earth and disrupt Felicity's equilibrium once more - as he threatens in the final chapter.

Further reading: If your child wants to know more about the facts behind quantum physics, the Bookbag heartily recommends Voyage Across The Cosmos by Giles Sparrow. Felicity Frobisher would lap up the amazing pictures. For teens, The Starlight Conspiracy by Steve Voake is a thrilling science-fiction mystery. Adults will enjoy Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar, another excellent read.

Buy Felicity Frobisher and the Three-headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by Marcus Chown at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Felicity Frobisher and the Three-headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by Marcus Chown at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Felicity Frobisher and the Three-headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by Marcus Chown at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Felicity Frobisher and the Three-headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by Marcus Chown at Amazon.com.


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