Book review: The FlimFlam Man

An illustrated cover of the book The Flimflam Man

A review of 'The Flimflam Man' by Darleen Bailey Beard, illustrated by Eileen Christelow.

Set in 1950s Wetumka, Oklahoma, this book is based upon the real life origins behind a parade called 'Sucker Day' that continues to this day.

10 year-old Bobbie Jo lives with her poor, widowed mother and dreams of a day when she can talk fluently. Feisty and kind-hearted, Bobbie Jo initially clashes with vulnerable bully Clara Jean who teases her about her speech.

Luckily, a stranger intervenes and offers Bobbie Jo two free tickets to see an upcoming circus he is advertising. The whole town is excited and buys tickets in advance.

Bobbie Jo enlists Clara Jean to help her and work together to advertise the circus. An unlikely friendship develops, not only with her former bully but also with the stranger, Mr Morrison. He connects with Bobbie Jo about his own speech difficulties growing up and shares his secrets as to how he overcame them.

But there are rumours that there is no circus and that Mr Morrison is a 'flim flam man' – a person who cheats people out of money in exchange for goods that never appear. Is it true? Is her new friend a liar?

Bobbie Jo's stammer and her desire to seek support is manipulated by Mr Morrison and used to build a false sense of trust. However, the moral of the story is that every cloud has a silver lining.

This is a short story suitable for key stage 2 children, that focuses on themes of trust, kindness and friendship. Stammering is touched upon throughout the story and the book provides a good opportunity to talk to children about Speech, Language and Communication Needs, bullying and inclusion.

This book was reviewed for STAMMA by Sarah Moriarty, a parent of a child who stammers. Sarah has a website, SLCN Stories, where she reviews inclusive stories aimed at raising awareness and supporting children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs.