cover image The Flimflam Man

The Flimflam Man

Darleen Bailey Beard. Farrar Straus Giroux, $15 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32346-2

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 resolution--the 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.)