A boy is tossed from the frying pan into the lion’s cage.
Freddie Mole, a “kind boy” who “lived quite a few years ago,” wants to get a job to help his impoverished family. Fortunately for the well-liked Freddie, his pals often treat him on outings, so when a friend invites him to the circus, Freddie can’t resist. To his surprise and delight, the circus needs a new assistant, and he’s hired on the spot. At the end of his first day, after Freddie’s swept the big top and helped the cook with the washing up, the ringmaster belatedly informs Freddie that he’s also the circus’ sole understudy. First he learns the trapeze, which is scary enough but made scarier when the hilariously incompetent aerialists almost forget the net. However, Freddie does such a wonderful job, he’s assigned to understudy the lion tamer (this was back “when circuses still had lions”). When the tamer runs off to Peru “or somewhere like that,” it’s up to Freddie to save the show. Will he succeed? Or will the ferocious beasts be his end? The unidentified narrator’s direct address forges an emotional connection between readers and Freddie. Cozy Briticisms and the curly black-and-white line art reinforce the story’s “once upon a time” feel. The cast is evidently all white.
Possessing an earnest ridiculousness similar to that of a Dahl story, Freddie’s adventure should appeal to a similar audience. (Humor. 7-12)