Flimflam Man by Darleen Bailey Beard, Eileen Christelow |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Flimflam Man

The Flimflam Man

5.0 1
by Beard, Eileen Christelow

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In the summer of 1950, a con man comes to Wetumka, Oklahoma, telling about his fabulous circus, and although he swindles the townspeople, two young girls grow from the experience.


In the summer of 1950, a con man comes to Wetumka, Oklahoma, telling about his fabulous circus, and although he swindles the townspeople, two young girls grow from the experience.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A promising premise and colorful cast of characters don't quite overcome the abrupt finish in Beard's (The Pumpkin-Man from Piney Creek) middle-grade novel set in 1950. Ten-year-old Bobbie Jo Hailey, the appealing heroine, meets up with a jolly, fast-talking salesman, F. Bam Morrison, who promises to bring the Big Top to sleepy little Wetumka, Okla. He drafts into his cause Bobbie Jo and mean Clara Jean Knox, who wears clear plastic boots even when it's sunny outside, then barters for food and lodging among the townspeople in exchange for tickets to the show. Here the story inexplicably crumbles. When it becomes clear that Mr. Morrison is, in fact, a flimflam con man, and he flees town, there is no consequence for the girls, no denouement and no resolutionthe duped pair is simply left by the side of the dusty road. The author tacks on an epilogue, but readers may still feel they've been left hanging. Ages 7-10. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6Ostensibly revolving around a confidence game that the residents of Wetumka, OK, lost during the summer of 1950, this quirky novel is not quite what it first seems. Beard gives her charmless con man the catalytic power to heal stuttering and forge friendships while, of course, lying "smooth as glass" to everyone. Bobbie Jo, the 10-year-old narrator with a speech impediment, sets the scene and tells how life in the small town changes when F. Bam Morrison drives up in his fancy turquoise Chevy and announces that the circus is coming. He recruits Bobbie Jo as his promotional aide, and she eases her guilty conscience for calling the bullying Clara Jean's daddy a drunk by making the older, friendless girl her partner. The youngsters help the flimflam man peddle his "limited" advance supply of tickets. They also collaborate to fulfill the "show must go on" promise that their devious mentor made. Following the "if you get stuck with a lemon, make lemonade" philosophy, the hoodwinked townsfolk create an annual Sucker Day Festival in self-effacing commemoration of their gullibility. Some of the narration is funny, laced with delightful vernacular"A fly could have flown in [to Clara Jean's gaping mouth] and roasted marshmallows and she wouldn't even have noticed"but, in the end, the ludicrous idea that this bamboozler may be "true blue" sorry (he delivers a pathetic I-never-meant-to-hurt-you apology to the ever-credulous Bobbie Jo as he heads out of town with everyone's money) does young readers a disservice by validating his lies.John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX
Kirkus Reviews
From Beard (The Pumpkin Man from Piney Creek, 1995), an easy-to-read tale based on a true incident that the citizens of Wetumka, Oklahomain a classic case of making lemons into lemonadestill celebrate with an annual "Sucker Day." When F. Bam Morrison steps out of his turquoise blue Chevy and announces that he's the advance man for Bohn's United Circus Shows, the whole town of Wetumka rushes to buy ticketsall but crotchety ol' man Swank, who snorts that Morrison is only a flimflam man, a two-faced weasel. To Bobbi Jo Hailey, 10, and her friend/rival Clara Jean, Morrison is a true marvel, offering Bobbie Jo advice on how to lose her stutter, exchanging "free" tickets for meals and other amenities, wowing the ladies with his grand manners, and smoothly selling circus program ads. Ol' man Swank is right, though; Morrison has the grace to apologize to Bobbie Jo before making his escape. The people of Wetumka make the best of it, deciding that if they can't have a circus, at least they can have a parade. Side plotsboth girls belong to single-parent families, and Clara Jean's father is an alcoholicweigh the story down but don't sink it; flashily dressed and positively glowing with trustworthiness, Morrison cuts a genial figure in Christelow's comfortably casual black- and-white drawings. (Fiction. 9-11)

From the Publisher

“Beard's story is full of nostalgic American fun and lively characters. Bobby Jo is especially appealing.” —Booklist

“A plain good yarn.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Based on the actual 1950 event that spawned the Wetumka, Oklahoma, annual Sucker Day Festival, this chapter book tells a rousing good tale of old-fashioned con-artistry. Ten-year-old Bobbie Jo Hailey is the first in town to meet smooth-talking stranger F. Bam Morrison, and the first to fall for his tall tale of an amazing traveling circus....Numerous lighthearted illustrations depict the gullible townspeople and the ultimately harmless trickster.” —The Horn Book

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.42(w) x 7.92(h) x 0.58(d)
650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Darleen Bailey Beard, author of Twister and The Babbs Switch Story, lives in Tuttle, Oklahoma.

Eileen Christelow has written and/or illustrated many books for children. She lives in Dummerston, Vermont.

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