A flea strongman leaves the small circus where he has been performing in search of greater fame and fortune.
The eponymous Samson is a big draw at Fleabag’s Circus. Although he’s clearly adored by his colleague, Amelie, and appreciated by audiences, readers are told that he feels “empty,” so he sets off in search of broader horizons and bigger audiences. Shadowed by a bee wearing a pirate hat and polka-dot pants, Samson pursues his dreams only to find that reaching them doesn’t make him happier. A wild ride on a shaggy red dog (with a little help from the bee) leads him home again. Sly humor abounds, much of it in the brightly colored, retro-styled illustrations. There are clever costumes: Samson’s leopard-spotted pants (echoed on the endpapers) and high-top sneakers, for example, and the balloon bug’s French-mime striped shirt and beret. The funniest detail—one that’s pivotal to the plot—is the larger stage upon which Samson eventually performs: a human strongman’s head. Unfortunately, the text is not as successful. It bumps along, sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, with little internal logic. Neither Samson’s initial hollowness nor his change of heart is particularly convincing and likely won’t have much meaning for young listeners.
Ultimately, Samson is appealingly offbeat but not quite the big star that he aspires to be. (Picture book. 4-7)