MISS FELICITY BEEDLE'S
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In his novel Snuff, Terry Pratchett introduced the character Miss Felicity Beedle, the author of children’s books on the Discworld. Having described the works of that author, Pratchett has now taken it upon himself to create at least one of her books for the entertainment and enjoyment of his own fans, much as he previously turned Where’s My Cow? into a stand alone book, now young Sam Vimes’s bedtime story Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo has taken on a life outside the confines of Pratchett’s world.
Geoffrey is one of those immaculate and well mannered children who only existed within the pages of a certain type of book, the type written by Miss Felicity Beedle. Sent away from home to visit his grandmother in Ankh-Morpork because of his father’s frequent business trips and the pending arrival of a new sister, Geoffrey must find a place for himself in his vaguely frightening grandmother’s home.
Except that Grand-mama’s house is not the scary, foreign place Geoffrey expects. What he finds is a warm, nurturing environment where his grandmother not only gives him to freedom to explore, but also is willing to support Geoffrey’s interests. The latter trait must have been difficult for her after Geoffrey made the acquaintance of her gardener, Plain Old Humphrey. After Humphrey informed Geoffrey that getting pooed on by a bird is considered lucky, Geoffrey decides to create a museum with as many different types of fecal matter as he can collect.
As Geoffrey, and Pratchett, explore the world of Ankh-Morpork’s sewage (with a quick trip to the zoological gardens to look at some of the more exotic animals that reside on the disc), it becomes apparent how slight this volume is. Pratchett does an excellent job capturing a very specific sort of children’s literature, although one which is more nostalgic than current. Geoffrey’s “adventures” including those with sewage magnate Harry King, are less adventures and more guided tour of the city’s less glamorous sections.
Although the setting for Miss Felicity Beedle’s World of Poo and Where’s My Cow? are tied to Pratchett’s popular Discworld series, they do not satisfy in the same way a Discworld novel does. The setting exists in the background, and there are nods to Unseen University, Lord Vetinari, and other landmarks of the city, but its lacks the feeling of being part of the larger city that Pratchett has described in so many books. Rather than being a character in World of Poo, Ankh-Morpork is merely a setting.
Miss Felicity Beedle’s World of Poo comes across more as a novelty book than a novel or a modern children’s book. Pratchett appears to be paying tribute to the type of book which was prolific in the past, but which has largely become extinct. Set in his Discworld, it is the sort of book that completists would seek, but not a book that is really part of the series, the way Snuff or the Tiffany Aching trilogy are. Pratchett’s creation of kids books based on texts that are read to young Sam Vimes is a development which was clever the first time, but shows every tendency of becoming stale with some rapidity.