Friday, May 4, 2012


Alex Shearer
$16.99, Hardcover
Scholastic, 2008
January 8th, 2012

Genre: Mystery, Humor
Age: 9+
Description: Fergal is an odd character. He doesn’t have many friends or hobbies but he’s . . . clever. One day while shopping with his mother he discovers a label-less can in the supermarket’s bargain bin and buys it. Before his mother knows, he’s collecting other label-less cans. That doesn’t seem too harmless, right? Until the day he begins discovering odd cans—ones that sound nearly empty yet rattle a bit, cans that contain things that turn out to not be food. When one can delivers a note saying “help” Fergal, with the help of his new friend and can enthusiast, Charlotte, begin to try and solve the mystery of the label-less cans.
Opinion: The first half of this book is interesting, but it gets odder and odder after that. To read about odd Fergal and his parents’ reaction to his can obsession is amusing and hilarious however Fergal’s characterization comes off as odd. Everyone around him is keen on calling him a “clever” boy which seems to be the author’s way of nicely saying Fergal is a bit “slow” instead. From the cover and the description of Fergal and Charlotte it sounds like they are in their teens but their mannerisms and whatnot make them seem more like elementary school students. It is never clearly stated but if they were to be teens they do seem to be suffering from some mental and social disorders since they don’t act that age. Once Fergal and Charlotte begin discovering body parts in their cans the rest of the novel’s plot points becomes nothing but coincidence after coincidence. It turns out there is a factory in a smaller town in which the cans are coming from. Fergal easily goes there to investigate on his own and gets trapped in a child labor factory packing cans of dog food. The plot gets more incredible from there when Charlotte eventually finds a label-less can with a 20-page help note from Fergal inside and she (cleverly?) attempts a rescue on her own. When the police show up the culprits are gone and the day is saved. There is a short postscript—humorous and incredulous at the same time—of a man who, instead of trashing the cans from the factory, sells them third-hand in which a can of dog food gets back to Fergal’s dad and he finds a toenail in one which leads readers to wonder where the evil Mr. and Mrs. Dimble-Smith really ended up.

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