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A boy finds a one-word message -- HELP! -- sealed in a tin can and is sucked into a thrillingly gruesome adventure.

Fergal Bamfield doesn't collect stamps like normal kids. He's an oddball (his mother prefers to call him "clever"), and his collection is as strange as everything else about him. Fergal Bamfield collects tin cans.

Then one day he finds a can without a label. What could be in it? Peaches, soup, perhaps revolting spam? But instead ...

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A boy finds a one-word message -- HELP! -- sealed in a tin can and is sucked into a thrillingly gruesome adventure.

Fergal Bamfield doesn't collect stamps like normal kids. He's an oddball (his mother prefers to call him "clever"), and his collection is as strange as everything else about him. Fergal Bamfield collects tin cans.

Then one day he finds a can without a label. What could be in it? Peaches, soup, perhaps revolting spam? But instead it's something gruesome: a human finger. Then Fergal finds another can, this time containing a one-word message, HELP! Now Fergal and his friend Charlotte are knee-deep in an adventure, and they're about to learn something horrible: Everybody has an expiration date.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Nicole Peterson
Have you ever had a collection? If you have, you will understand why Fergal decides to collect something. The trouble is he decides to collect something most people do not even want—cans without labels. He enjoys the mystery of not knowing what is inside the can—lima beans, peaches, meat, or something else. He really enjoys his collection—until one day he decides to open up one of the more suspicious cans. The contents inside the can send Fergal and his friend Charlotte (who also happens to be a can collector) on a hunt they will never forget. This mysterious book is suspenseful and captivating and readers will enjoy solving this interesting mystery along with Fergal and Charlotte. The crime involves murder, but in a very unrealistic way, so it is not a typical mystery book. An appropriate choice for the classroom, home, and school libraries. Reviewer: Nicole Peterson
VOYA - Janet Scherer
Fergal Banfield collects cans. Not the every day can, mind you, but the ones found in the supermarket's bargain basket of cans whose labels have fallen off. His parents, not sure what to make of this obsession, believe it is because he is "clever." His peers would most likely describe him as weird. As Fergal's collection grows larger, his parents give him an ultimatum, telling him that he must open one of the cans he has before buying any more. Fergal agrees, but when he finds a pierced earring in the can, he is spurred on to purchase another. The content of this second can is downright creepy, a human finger. When next at the market, Fergal meets Charlotte, who shares his fascination for cans. They quickly become friends and decide to meet and discuss the contents of their cans. Charlotte has had the same experience as Fergal, with the contents of her cans revealing different body parts as well as more jewelry. And so, the mystery of the cans begins. Whose body parts are in these cans and where are they coming from? The author writes a novel whose characters might be simple and a bit underdeveloped and whose premise is quite gruesome, but the plot is entertaining, enough to compel this reviewer to read on to its conclusion. Middle school boys and girls would enjoy this likeable pair of detectives and probably look forward to another adventure in the future. Reviewer: Janet Scherer
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7- A hilariously gruesome comedy thriller set in England. Fergal Bamfield's an oddball kid who collects cans without labels from the reduced-price bins of supermarkets and spends a lot of time puzzling over their contents. Compelled to open a particularly lightweight can with an interesting rattle, Fergal finds a gold earring stud. In another, he finds a human finger. When he meets fellow collector Charlotte, he learns that she has opened a tin that contained a human ear and another with a ring-that perfectly fits the finger he found. When they find a slip of paper with "help" on it, they are sure someone needs rescuing. While Charlotte is on vacation, Fergal figures out the factory location from numbers on the can; is caught trespassing there; and becomes enslaved, along with other kids, filling and sealing cans of pet food all day. With a sixth sense that Charlotte will find it, he writes a note about his imprisonment and slips it into an empty tin. Will she find him? Shearer taps into the repulsive yet seductive appeal of urban legends. The pair, with all their eccentricities, will be reassuring characters to children who feel different. Quirky and original, funky and totally gross, this fast-paced novel blends several genres: crime, horror, mystery, and fantasy. Its black humor, balanced by a serious look at forced child labor, will keep readers hooked from the beginning.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This macabre mystery may make readers give up canned foods. Fergal Banfield, an eccentric English lad with the peculiar hobby of collecting unlabelled cans from supermarket bargain bins, discovers a gold ear stud in his latest acquisition. The mystery deepens when he next discovers a severed human finger in another can. Fergal meets Charlotte, a fellow can-collector, who finds a human ear in one of her cans, and it goes with the gold stud. Fergal's investigation leads him to a pet-food factory owned by Mr. and Mrs. Dimble-Smith. Fergal makes the grisly discovery that the factory is staffed by enslaved young children from Africa and Asia, who become ingredients of the pet food when they grow old enough to resist captivity. Pressed into service and fearing for his life, Fergal gets a message to Charlotte on a can label about his situation and location, but no one believes her story. So it's Charlotte to the rescue! The grotesque elements of the story are more suggestive than descriptive, and Shearer's delightfully droll, dark humor makes for many light moments. Readers with a taste for the bizarre and gross will find this tale most tasty. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439903097
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,460,943
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for

    Meet Fergal. He is a loner and a bit of an eccentric. His parents often worry about him. They like to think he is clever, but sometimes even being clever doesn't explain everything. <BR/><BR/>A recent visit to the grocery store with his mother has Fergal excited about something new. While at the store, he discovered the wonders of the "bargain bin." It is where items with bumps and dents and nearly expired dates go to be rescued by some value-minded shopper. What Fergal finds in the bargain bin is a shiny can missing its label. The mystery of the unidentified can inspires Fergal to begin a collection. Fergal becomes obsessed with label-free cans. In no time at all his collection grows to over 40 cans. His parents think it is a bit strange but hopefully harmless. <BR/><BR/>When the collection takes over the bookshelf in Fergal's room, his mother insists that for each new can he finds he must open one of the old ones. She considers it a waste to just collect the things and not use the contents. This leads to Fergal's gruesome discovery. <BR/><BR/>One might think that Fergal is the only person to think of collecting unlabeled cans, but he bumps into a fellow can-collector at the store one day. Her name is Charlotte. She has also opened several of her cans and found something equally as gruesome as Fergal. Together they set out to solve the mystery. <BR/><BR/>Alex Shearer's CANNED offers misfit characters, humor, and just the right amount of "gross" stuff to satisfy typical middle grade and teen readers. Even though the story is set in England and uses British jargon, most readers will relate to Fergal and Charlotte as they quietly carry on their investigation under the noses of clueless adults. This wacky, off-beat adventure is well worth checking out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    "This book is worth more than a few fingers!!!" says a 6th grade student from Glendale, AZ Canned by Alex Shearer

    Canned by Alex Shearer
    Fergal Bamflied is a boy whose appearances would lead you to think he would have to have supreme knowledge in everything he does. Well, let's just say not all things are they seem. Not only that but his hobbies aren't your every-day ones either, see he collects cans...cans with no labels. (Not knowing what to expect what is contained in those metal mysteries.) But, he's just not the best with socializing or interacting with others so sharing his hobbies are out of the question. Which is all changed on one faithful day when a can changes all that.
    On one of Fergal's mother daily rounds to the super-market as usual Fergal found himself in the bargain-basket rummaging threw when he found the one. The label- less can that gleamed with light, deep inside he new it was the one with no doubt. When he shook it the contents side with a solid thud. But, what he didn't know was this move he was about to make would lead to great stories destiny would foretell. The scanner ran over the can and the groceries and placed the can in the plastic bag .The deed had been done. The curse had begun.
    It all started in March the year of 2000 or so in England. The novel's theme in the end was trust and friendship. I have never seen two friends risk their own lives for each-other in such a heart-warming manner. In my book it's number 1. If I where to rate this book if liked it or not I would give it a flat out yes. I say this because of the great story of friendship put to its limits fulfilling the limits of friendship. You come back looking at the world in a whole different way. I also say yes because of the great thought put into this story's whole plot. Oh, and here is a little shout out to Alex Shearer "You're awesome!!!" I mean the characters are so easy to relate to the way they lurk in the shadows at school not to mind their rank in what I call the "The School chain". I mean for me that's about the easiest thing to relate to (Personally I'm a real dork.).I mean once I was taking on the phone with my friend when she had said something that to her was no laughing manner and had not listened to a word she had said so I faked it by saying "Oh, that's awesome!!" There was a weird moment of silence and then I realized what I had done and blurted out with giggles. Also the interest in such unusual "things" like me and my collection of rocks. If this book is interesting to you I'd recommend "Star Girl "by Jerry Spinelli, "Stolen Children" by Peg Kehret.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Book!

    This book is really good. Its about this boy who collects cans and then gets trapped in a can factory. You should read it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2009

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    Posted June 7, 2010

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