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Fungus the Bogeyman

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There isn’t really a storyline; the content instead strikes me as more of a lengthy encyclopaedia entry rendered in the most perfectly bilious green. English illustrator and children's book author Raymond Briggs is best known in Britain for his 'books without words' told entirely though full color illustrations. Of course being a pixie type person myself I firmly believe in the little people that live at the bottom of gardens and in enchanted woods and forests.

But Fungus is having an existential crisis “I am, yet what I am who knows … I am the self-consumer of my woes” and this philosophical turn gives the Bogeyman, despite everything, a likeable character.

But that all being said, the constant and continuously recurring anally, body fluid and excretions based humour does tend to feel and become rather overly exaggerated and overused (even to the point of wearing more than a bit thin and thus no longer even being all that humorous to and for me, and mostly like a buzzing mosquito, somewhat annoying and recurringly tedious). Fungus the Bogeyman is a lovingly created work of art, with as much care and thought in the words as in the images. As his day progresses, he undergoes a mild existential crisis, pondering what his seemingly pointless job of scaring surface people is really for.

This sort-of-picture-book-sort-of-graphic-novel acts as a travelogue of "Bogeydom", taking the surface-dwelling "dry cleaner" reader into the world of those creatures that go bump in the night. When I started reading books by this author, I was expecting something more fanciful like The Snowman, but found titles much closer in tone and themes to The Man. This adaption also starred Marc Warren, Keeley Hawes, Joanna Scanlan, Jimmy Akingbola, Paul Kaye, and also Victoria Wood in her final television role before her death in April 2016. Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs is fantastic and intriguing read for children aged between seven and eleven.It’s great and horrible fun for adults and kids alike – with brilliant illustrations throughout as you’d expect.

The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman (1984) was a scathing denunciation of the Falklands War. A strong stomach is occasionally required to accompany a reading of this exploration of a typical day in the life of Fungus the Bogeyman. The book depicts the mundane details of Bogey life in loving detail, with definitions of Bogey slang and numerous annotations concerning the myths, pets, hobbies, literature, clothing and food of the Bogeys. But, what makes the book so strange is not just the weird censorship jokes, but the fact that throughout the novel, Fungus is having something of an existential crisis. He is a bogeyman who goes to the surface each night to cause havoc (literally: things that go bump on the night).It didn't take long for the concept to sink in, and when I paged through the rest of the book, it seemed to be just more "Bogeymen love all things wet, smelly, and dirty" ad nauseum. Best known for his more conventional children's books such as The Snowman, Briggs, like Roald Dahl, has an uncanny sense of what really appeals to children -- gross stuff and toilet humor. This Gala Films production with screenplay by author Mark Haddon, featuring live-action humans and animated Bogeys, was nominated for five awards. When it came out the general public were shocked at the scatological humour, which is now standard in children's literature, but it no longer has that impact. Briggs says that he invented Fungus, ‘to show the petty nastiness of life — slime and spit and dandruff, all this awful stuff which is slightly funny because it detracts from human dignity and our pretensions.

Yes, ultimately the joke is one-note (everything in bogeydom is more or less the reverse of things in the human world, so bogeymen prefer dirt to cleanliness, cold to warmth, wet to dry, and so on, though there are occasional inconsistencies), but Briggs pulls off so many brilliant variations on it, and paces them out so carefully as he narrates Fungus's typical "day" (read night) of frightening and irritating people, all the while wondering what purpose his job serves, that the joke somehow never gets tired. And I am quite frankly (and personally) getting more than sick and tired of rather too often encountering especially picture or comic books geared towards children that have a presentation style that seems to not at all take the importance of visual comfort while reading into consideration and seriously enough (as well as the potential eye strain an overly small font size can often and even likely cause). The Bogeymen that live there revel in every kind of nastiness imaginable - especially their day-job of scaring human beings. Through the richly-detailed pages, contrasts and parallels are revealed between the gentle, disgusting Bogeys, and humans.And while the book was certainly quirky and very funny, it was also very different from what I was expecting it to be. We learn about Bogey houses, their family structure, what they do for fun, how they live, the essentials of their health and well-being, and more. One of my earliest book-related memories is of my parents taking me to the local library so I could rumage through the cluttered jumble of children's books, always in the hope of finding this buried treasure. Experience a day in the life of a Bogeyman in this brilliantly gross picture book for older children. He spends a good portion of the later part of the book wondering "if this is really worth it" and "why do we do the things we do?

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