In his humorous illustrations and well-conceived text, New Yorker cartoonist Fradon ( Harold the Herald ; Sir Dana: A Knight ) displays a wit that would do honor to any sharp medieval or renaissance fool, the subjects of his jovial account. The chatty narrator is Frambert, a 16th-century jester who springs into action from a display case in the medieval room of a museum. Frambert introduces a group of students to the tradition of buffoonery and offers anecdotal portraits of a handful of actual 16th- and 17th-century fools. Fradon uses a clever system of simplified footnotes (designated by colored dots rather than by numbers) to provide additional information, historical facts and definitions of unfamiliar words or period terms without encumbering his perky text. Also supplementing the narrative are numerous dialogue balloons (containing fools' rhymes and sallies) worked into cartoon-style pictures. Diverting descriptions of pranks and forms of entertainment typically performed by fools--including food fights and mock jousts--add to the fun. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Cartoonist Fradon takes a lighthearted look at an often misunderstood and misrepresented figure. He presents a clear, enjoyable narrative told by Frambert, a jester doll who comes to life. Clever conversation, jokes, and pertinent facts combine for a lively portrait of history's early comedians. Simple footnotes define unusual terms such as ``hey nonny nonny,'' ``poet laureate,'' and jest books. Also included are several well-known fools, such as Will Sommers and Querno. Humorous watercolor cartoons appear on every page. The text and drawings are nicely balanced. A great addition to collections on the Middle Ages.-Beth Tegart, Oneida City Schools, NY
Laughter is also part of history, in the castle and in the street. The initial device of this book is cumbersome--a statue of a Renaissance court fool steps out of a museum case to tell contemporary kids about jesters of his time--but the humor and humanity of the subject will grab readers, especially since "New Yorker" cartoonist Fradon enlivens his text with wild, colorful drawings and droll one-liners. He's frank about the dark side of the story--some fools were disabled, cruelly mocked, and ridiculed as freaks for everyone's entertainment. But many were smart and daring, using their wit to earn their keep and to amuse and inform the powerful. He tells particular stories: the sixteenth-century fool Caillete who died for love; the woman fool Mathurine who liked to parade through the streets of Paris dressed as an Amazon; the dwarf fool Querno who was a poet, musician, and wit. Fradon also throws in an occasional mock-heroic "thou" and "forsooth" to add to the fun ("I fear not! My heart is cool.") and unobtrusively footnotes historical references. Acrobatics, doggerel verse, riddles, food fights, dress-ups, put-downs, and all the ragtag costumery of street theater were as much fun then as they are now; so is the joy of putting on a show.