Fergus Hamilton is an ordinary eight year old boy who likes football, fish fingers and chocolate cake but in the ‘Flying Fergus’ stories his adventures are anything but ordinary. Like all eight year olds Fergus has a vivid imagination and the readers are kept guessing right until the end of the book before they find out what is reality and what is a product of our hero’s imagination.
This book is co-written by Olympic legend Chris Hoy and award winning author Joanne Nadin (who by the way teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University) and would definitely have appealed to a 7 year old me as I was a rather reluctant reader in my primary school days. As a teacher it also has appeal and I like several of the themes explored, in particular the importance of hard work, perseverance and determination. Fergus’ grandad tells him that nobody is born a winner or a loser. Referring to legendary cycling champion Spokes Sullivan grandad tells Fergus;
‘Sure, he has some talent, but that’s just the beginning. Without working hard at it he’d just be a regular fellow with a fancy bike.’
This theme of resilience being important is repeated several times during the story and is one that in my mind children cannot hear too often.
Other themes in the book that can be used to spark discussion include single parent families as Fergus lives just with his mum and his grandad. Our little hero clearly misses his father and this is explored sensitively as the story progresses and continues until the end.
In a society where it feels like everybody gets exactly what they want whenever they want it, Fergus has to content himself with a second hand bike rather than the speedy, shiny ‘Sullivan Swift’ that he had set his heart on. With some hard work, some help from his grandad and some second hand parts they transform it into a shiny orange machine that best friend Daisy describes as ‘Beast’! Again, this theme is repeated on several occasions and provides teachers with the opportunity to discuss this with children. Some pupils will identify with Fergus, whilst others will be able to reflect on their own material possessions and realise how fortunate they are.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, the first in a whole series of Flying Fergus books, where accompanied by his dog Chimp, his bike flies him from his home in Scotland to a parallel universe called Nevermore, which may just hold the key to finding his father…