Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher - Bill Harley

Bill Harley's The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher is an interesting tale, albeit one with a fairly predictable fairy-tale ending. 10 year old Darius Frobisher's rather eccentric father Rudy is an insurance salesman, except when he's off on one of his adventurous journeys to Antarctica or Mongolia or in a cave somewhere with a grizzly bear. His mother is dead, so Darius is mostly brought up by Miss Hasting, the housekeeper, who makes lovely burnt toast, and will happily sit on the roof and fire water balloons at the garden.

One day, however, several weeks after Darius' father flies off in a hot air balloon and doesn't come back, Darius's carefree existence comes to an abrupt end. The legal and accounting representatives of Darius' father, Figby, Migby and Zarnoff, turn up to tell him that he is going to be sent to live with his notoriously nasty Aunt Inga, where he will be forced to sleep in a cold, damp basement. He then finds himself spending most of his waking hours trying to dodge Anthony, the horrible teenage boy next door, who's home from military school and is looking for someone to bully, and trying to keep his aunt from bemoaning his presence in her house.

Darius discovers the location of the local library, where a friendly, kindly librarian looks after him; she doesn't ask him awkward questions when he tells her that his aunt won't allow him to take the library books he's borrowed home (Inga's convinced he'll forget he has then and run up enormous fines that she'll have to pay), but instead offers him the use of an empty shelf behind the desk. Darius also meets a strange old man named Daedalus, who helps him to fix the chain on the bicycle he's rescues from his aunt's basement. He plans to use the bicycle to escape from his aunt's house to go in search of Miss Hastings. Daedalus helps Darius to refurbish the old bike, and teaches him the Greek myths, whilst Darius helps Daedalus to repair other children's bicycles. But Daedalus has a secret and when Darius discovers it, he is convinced it's just the thing to help him to escape from aunt Inga, something he becomes very desperate to do after she decides to send Darius to the same military school as Anthony.

This is a fun tale. When you're reading it, keep an eye on the bicycle illustration that decorates each right hand page from chapter 4 onwards - if you flick through the pages fast enough, you'll see the bicycle moving !

The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher is also available from

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