Just Imagine

Fizzlebert Stump


About the Book

‘There are many boys in the world, all slightly different from one another, and most of them are referred to by names. These are often John or Jack or Desmond, but sometimes they are James or Philip or Simon. Once, and once only, there was a boy whose name was Fizzlebert.’

Fizzlebert Stump lives in a travelling circus. But although he gets to hang around with acrobats, play the fool with clowns, and put his head in a lion’s mouth every night, he’s the only kid there – and he’s bored. But then Fizz decides to join a library, and life suddenly gets a lot more exciting, when a simple library card application leads to him being kidnapped by a pair of crazed pensioners, the Stinkthrottles. Here he makes friends with Kevin and plots an escape plan.

This humorous book will appeal to readers who enjoy wacky humour. The voice is lively, witty and distinctive. Narrated by a transferred storyteller (as though the author is talking directly to the reader), there are frequent asides to the reader and authorial intrusion providing snippets of information about the ways in which stories work.

The story derives from the tradition of literary Nonsense. The title Fizzlebert Stump The Boy who Ran Away from the Circus and Joined the Library is reminiscent of the titles Hilaire Belloc used for his Cautionary Verses. Connections can also be made with the work of other writers whose gruesome characters are a source of humour e.g Roald Dahl, Philip Ardagh and Andy Stanton.

Before Reading

Write the title on the IWB:Fizzlebert Stump the Boy who Ran Away from the Circus and Joined the Library.

Ask the children if they find anything strange or puzzling about the title. It would be more usual to read about someone running away and joining the circus, which is traditionally considered to be exciting and adventurous but the children may not be familiar with that cultural reference.

Ask the children if the title prompts any questions e.g

  • Who is Fizzlebert Stump?
  • Why does he run away from the circus?
  • Why does he join the library?

Can they predict what might happen in this story?

Vocabulary: there are lot of interesting words in Fizzlebert. Create vocabulary wall and invite children to add new words when they encounter them.

Introduce vocabulary journals (If they are not already used). identify 2 or 3 words to teach before reading each chapter and encourage the children to add words independently.

Develop an active approach to defining words drawing on both contextual and derivational knowledge. When using dictionaries, use at least 2 dictionaries in order to highlight the different ways in which words can be defined. The purpose here is to demonstrate that there are often subtle differences and that dictionaries alone are insufficient tools for defining vocabulary, though they are of course very helpful.

Always encourage the children to reflect on how the dictionary definition fits with the contextual meaning in the story.

New Word Context: where is it used in the story? Have you seen this word before? Where? Have you heard this word before? Where? What do you think it means? Dictionary definition 1 Dictionary definition 2

During Reading

Chapter 1

Character names: names in stories are really important, even if they are ordinary, everyday names like Tom or Sophie, a writer will have taken some time to pick just the right name. A F Harrold devoted the entire first paragraph to explaining Fizzlebert’s name. What do you think he does that and what effect does it have on the reader?

Imagine you are a character in a story and write an introduction to your name.


  • Were there any words, phrases or sentences that you particularly enjoyed in this chapter?
  • Were there any words that need clarifying?
  • Reread the paragraph introducing Fizzlebert’s mother why does it say she had an unfortunate sense of timing?
  • Reread the paragraph introducing Fizzlebert’s father. Why is character building written in inverted commas and why do the parents think the experience will be character building for their children?

Problems, conflicts, complications

Read up to the paragraph where the narrator says what could possibly be wrong with this life?

Wrong? Why should something be wrong?

Aha, well here’s something interesting about a story: if everything is alright, then there is no story: its just a happy boy with happy parents. Its a good thing, for sure, of course, without doubt, but its not particularly exciting. So, let me share a secret with you.

Fizzlebert wasnt happy

Invite the children to discuss why Fizzlebert may be unhappy?

Ask, do you agree that there is no story if everyone is happy? Does something always go wrong? Is there always a problem? Encourage them to think about stories they know and to provide examples.

Chapter 2

Making connections: Fizzlebert meets a group of children who tell him how much they enjoy the circus. Talk to the children about any experiences they have had with the circus. What acts did they see?

Readers’ theatre: this is an engaging strategy for reading chapters with a lot of dialogue, particularly if you have confident readers. Prepare photocopies of the chapter one for each character. Each copy is to be used for a different character. Take the first copy and highlight all the dialogue spoken by Fizzlebert. Highlight only the actual words spoken. Don’t highlight the tags e.g. said Fizzlebert’ as these will be read by the narrator.Now do the same on the second copy and repeat for each of the characters. Distribute the highlighted copies. The narrator reads the chapter aloud but stops to let the different characters read their lines of dialogue.

Readers’ theatre is interactive reading helps to give the reading a different kind of energy and interest.

Sticks and stones: Fizzlebert lives in a community were the adults play jokes on each other and tease each other.

  • Is there a difference between this and the children calling Fizzlebert names?
  • How does this relate to your experience?
  • Are there some nicknames that you like and others that upset you?

Punctuation matters: ensure the children have sight of the text and reread the following section

What was all that noise just now? It sounded like voices

‘It was just some kids, Mum, Fizz said.

Some kids mum? What did she want?’

No, not some kids mum, Mum. Some kids, Mum.

That’s what I said darling, she said, not really paying attention to his punctuation.

  • Why is this passage funny?
  • Can you explain how the punctuation helps to make this section funny?
  • Draw two pictures to show the different meanings that the words have when they are punctuated differently.

Chapter 3

Going to school discussion: Fizzlebert’s education is very different from the norm.

  • In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of being educated at home and being educated at school?
  • If you could design your ideal curriculum, which subjects would you study?

Circus Glossary

In this chapter we find out about the different jobs that people do in the circus. The Riggers are the men who build the Big Top in a travelling circus and then take it down before moving on to a new town. The circus has its own special language. Can you work out what the terms below mean? Check your ideas using a dictionary or other sources. Some of these words will have more than one meaning, so check that the definition you have found is connected with the circus.

Word Origin Meaning
Iron Jaw
Mud show
Cherry Pie
Candy Butcher

Places of work often have their own special language. Can you think of any? Does school have any special language?

Chapter 4

Libraries: In this chapter Fizzlebert visits the library for the first time. This provides an ideal opportunity to plan a trip to the public library and to organise for children to be signed up for library tickets, if they are not already library members. Most library services will have a point of contact who can help you with this.

It also provides an opportunity to renew children’s interest in the school library. Working in groups they could produce an imaginative display based on Fizzlebert Stump.

Chapter 5

Character introductions: Read from the beginning of the chapter to ‘These were the two people Fizz faced‘.

  • What impression do you have of these two old people?
  • Find evidence in the story to support your ideas.

For example:

The Old Lady

She is old About the same age as Fizzs grandmother who has retired and she is called an old lady.
She is trying to make herself attractive She is wearing pink lipstick and eye make-up

Gruesome characters often feature in children’s books. Interesting comparisons can be made with

Roald Dahl said Mrs Twit is ugly due to her ugly thoughts. Is this true of any of the other gruesome characters?

Chapter 6

Settings:In this chapter we are introduces to the Stinkthrottles house. After reading the chapter briefly discuss responses to the chapter.

  • How did it make you feel?
  • Were there any descriptions that they thought were particularly effective?

Organise the children in groups. Make sure they either have a copy of the book each or the passage from Fizz was stood in a hallway to smelling slightly fishy and entirely horrible. Ask them to identify ways in which AF Harrold has evoked the senses, sight, sound, touch and smell to create the image of the house.

Use a bubble map to help the children organise their thoughts. Have them add ideas to each of the bubbles: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste

Visualisation: provide materials such as paper, crayons, pencils, and paints for the children to picture the Sinkthrottles house.

Chapter 7

Humour: By this point in the story the children will be very familiar with the voice A F Harrold employs to tell the story of Fizzlebert Stump. The narration is characterized by direct address to the reader, word definitions and parenthetic asides and authorial intrusion to explain how the story works.

In pairs or small groups, ask the children to reread the chapter and to highlight three favourite examples of humour. Gather the class together and share the examples. Ask the children to explain the reasons for their choices and explain how the humour works.

Chapter 8

Readers’ Theatre: provide copies of the extract from When Mr and Mrs Stump reached Dr Surprises caravan to Its only five minutes away, the doctors said quietly.

This section provides humour through dialogue is a good passage for readers’ theatre with a group of four children (Mr Stump, Mrs Stump, Dr Surprise, Narrator). Have the children practise reading the section. See chapter 2 for instructions.

Chapter 9

The escape plan: write the chapter heading on the board

In which a bathroom is described and in which an escape plan is formulated.

Before reading the chapter, group the children and ask them to devise a cunning escape plan. Share ideas and invite the children to question each other on the effectiveness of their plans. Vote for the most inventive escape plan.

Chapter 10

Vocabulary review: In pairs, ask the children to review their vocabulary journals and to identify and share their favourite words.

Story shape: discuss the way in stories are structured with the action rising through a series of problems until they reach the climax after which the story works towards the final resolution. Map the events in Fizzlebert Stump up to this point

Introduction: characters and setting are established

Rising action: story advances through a sequence of problems (and some solutions)

Climax: the part in the story when the tension is most intense. It’s the turning point in the story.

Falling action: the part of the story after the climax, moving towards the resolution

Resolution: the problem is resolved, everything is worked out (not necessarily happily). Typically this is where the story ends.

Chapter 11

‘ in which loose ends are tied up’

Refer back to the story structure diagram from the previous session. After reading the title ask which part of the diagram this chapter will cover (resolution).

Ask the children to predict how they think the loose ends will be tied up based on what they have read so far. Prompt them to think about each of the characters.

After Reading

Review: discuss the children’s view of the book. Some prompts to help structure the discussion;

  • Return to the questions that you had at the start. Have your questions been answered? Was the story what you expected or were there any surprises?
  • What questions would you like to ask the author?
  • Who would you recommend this book to?