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The Fall of Fergal: The First Unlikely Exploit (Unlikely Exploits) Hardcover – May 1, 2004

4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Philip Ardagh, the smart, silly author of the Eddie Dickens trilogy (and often called the UK's answer to Lemony Snicket), kicks off another smart, silly series with The Fall of Fergal.

Between an internal-dialogue prologue and an early in-story, readers will quickly realize that the plot of Fergal will probably prove secondary to Ardagh's free-wheeling self-referential style. But how can you argue when you're having this much fun? Even as the book begins with its ending, Ardagh's strategy works as brilliantly as ever--and even includes a semi-sensible plot: young Le Fay McNally has reached the Tap 'n' Type Young Typist of the Year Grand Finals, and she hopes to smuggle her older sister, twin brothers, and one younger brother into the luxurious Dell hotel to watch her compete. The poor, put-upon, ill-fed McNally kids reel at the poshness of the Dell, and comedy ensues as Le Fay first sneaks her siblings into the hotel, then begins meeting her competitors (including the hilariously illustrated and described Graham Large: "the hair--my God, the hair--that was most shocking of all. Thick, dark brown, and swept back into an enormous quiff, it was so stiff that it looked more like spun sugar....She'd never met such a sweet-smelling, softy-skinned, quiffy person in shorts before").

Between his knowing asides, Ardagh squeezes in a few other hilarious characters--including chief hotel detective Capt. Twinkle-Toes Tweedy (Retd.) and voluminously mustachioed ventriloquist and beat poet Hieronymus Peach--before the white-knuckle Tap 'n' Type finals and the book's climactic ending (which, if you'll remember, came at the book's beginning). Fans and soon-to-be fans of Ardagh will be glad to hear him confide that there's much, much more in store for the McNallys: "There are three books in this series, and something has to happen in the other two!" (Ages 9 to 12) --Paul Hughes

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6–"The very last words young Fergal McNally heard in his life were: 'Don't lean out of that window!'" It's a great hook for a dark tale that begins with the end and works its way backward, but the device is not entirely successful. Widowed Captain McNally is a former sailor and war hero who has turned to drinking. His oldest daughter, Jackie, takes care of her four siblings. When Le Fay wins a spot in the national grand finals for a typing competition, Jackie devises a plan for the other children to attend the event; they will sneak into Le Fay's hotel room. After uncovering a plot by another competitor to cheat her out of the championship, Fergal tragically falls to his death. When the detective sees the remaining children in the hotel room, he notices a resemblance between them and an old sailor who once saved his life. A strange twist at the end leads the way to the next book in the series. Dropping prophetic hints throughout, Ardagh ties the loose ends together nicely and talks to readers in a series of asides. Unfortunately, the sequencing of the story, starting with Fergal, skipping back to introduce the characters and tell the story, occasionally fast forwarding again, is distracting and results in a fragmented narrative. Ardagh's dark sense of humor is particularly evident in his graphic description of Fergal's fall and subsequent trip to the morgue. The pen-and-ink line drawings are eerily sinister and somewhat disturbing. This British author's dry, off-the-wall wit will appeal to a limited audience.–Kit Vaughan, Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 13 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1090L (What's this?)
  • Series: Unlikely Exploits (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805074767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805074765
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,557,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My 10 year-old son, usually a reluctant reader, loved this book so much that he repeatedly chose to read beyond his "required" 30 minutes of reading time. Also, he kept running in to me to read me excerpts - he thought it was hilarious. He brought it to school to ask his librarian to get it. Wow! I've ordered the second and anxiously await the 3rd.
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Format: Hardcover
The Fall of Fergal is The First Unlikely Exploit in the adventures of the McNally family, though it is hard to say exactly what place Fergal will play in the remaining novels, as he dies...well, splats, almost immediately. Page one, in fact. The author, Philip Ardagh, then spends the rest of the book explaining how exactly the fatal accident that occurs on page one came to be.

To say that the McNally family is a bit down on their luck would be like saying my cat is rather fond of cat food. In fact, she's a 20 pounder and the McNally's haven't had an acquaintance with luck in years. That is, until little Le Fay McNally makes it to the finals of the Tap `n' Type typing competition.

As part of being in the finals, Le Fay gets a fancy room at very posh Dell Hotel. It's only supposed to be for her, but Jackie, the oldest of the McNally kids (pretty much a grown woman), decides it would be good for them all to have a holiday (other than Rufus McNally, their taciturn and sole remaining and non-parenting parent). So Jackie, Fergal, and the almost-identical twins Albie and Joshua, set off by bus to join her. On the way they meet Mr. Peach, a ventriloquist and beat poet (not exactly Kerouac, but very nice), who figures largely in the story later on.

Le Fay's competition in the type off includes the nasty Graham Large, a regular dandy of a kid, who is not above shortcuts and cheating to get ahead. Things would have turned disastrous indeed if not for the sharp eyes of Fergal, the keen hearing of Jackie, and the kindness of Mr. Peach (and Malcolm Kent, the Tap `n' Type representative and a very nice fellow to boot).

But it is Twinkle-Toes Tweedy, the hotel's detective, that ultimately changes the lives of all the McNally's after the competition is over.
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A Kid's Review on January 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was reading The Fall of Fergal by Philip Ardagh. One of the three unlikely exploits. This book was good after the first 50 pages. But before the first 50 pages, it is so confusing. So you have to read on.

In this book Le Fay McNally gets to go to a Tap'n'Type compition with her brothers Fergal and Joshua and her sisters Albie and Jackie. So anyways the McNally family is really poor. So they have Fergal dress up as a baby and Joshua and Albie (twins) look like one person, so that they only have to pay for three bus tickets instead of five. So they get to the hotel and Le Fay checks in and finds away to sneak the rest of her family in by stealing a box of tissues from her room and wedges it in the emergency exit door, but an alarm goes off.

A reader who would like this book is a reader who likes humor. I think that reader would like that book because it has little jokes in it like in the beginning of the book when it tells you that Fergal just fell out the window. It says, " nothing funny has happened in this stage, so if you're hoping to laugh, we now interrupt this story for a joke. Two cannibals are eating a boiled clown. One clown turns to the other, during mouthfuls and says, does this taste funny to you." You see what I mean it's sort of funny. So if you want to find out how Fergal died? Or if you want to see if Le Fay gets caught? Read this book
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Format: Hardcover
We read it in class this week. It's a quick and easy read, maybe a bit childish, but overall pretty good. It was in an interesting format with the author going off on tangents, foreshadowing events to come, telling jokes, and other ways to involve the reader. Some may be confused by the format but I liked and enjoyed this book. I'd reccomend it to anyone who just wants a short and easy to read fun book.
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