Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Me and Frumpet. An adventure with size and science

Me and Frumpet. An adventure with size and science by Evans G. Valens
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it was amazing
bookshelves: children

I don't know if I'm 'reviewing' the right bk here. I remember its title as being just "Frumpet" & I remember it as being about a little boy who, after going to bed, goes into the basement of his house to play w/ his friend Frumpet who's a man made out of pipe-cleaners. Frumpet lives in a train garden so the boy has to shrink down to accomplish this. This had a foreward by Edward Teller, the so-called "father of the hydrogen bomb" who Dr. Strangelove might've been modelled after. I really don't remember that! If there's another bk called just "Frumpet" I can't find any traces of it.


review of
Evans G. Valens' Me and Frumpet — An Adventure With Size and Science
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 27- February 2, 2019

I probably 1st read this when I was about 7, maybe in 1960, maybe 2 yrs after the bk was published in 1958. I 1st reviewed it on April 18, 2008 when I was still in my 1st yr of reviewing bks on Goodreads. That review was very minimal since I no longer had a copy of the bk & was remembering it 48 yrs later. My posting of that review eventually generated some comments, including some by the author's daughter-in-law, Amy. She informed me that:

"You have the right book, even if you remember it slightly off. The story was written by my father-in-law, so I know it well. It revolves around the fact that the boy's father doesn't want the boy to put Frumpet into the train layout because he is not "to scale" Frumpet conspires with the boy to prove that not everything in the miniature world works the way it would in our world--thus the subtitle "an adventure with size and science"."

This stimulated me to try to get a copy of the bk but I was dismayed to discover that it doesn't appear to've been reprinted & remaining copies are very expensive (by my admittedly impoverished standards). SO, I got a copy through inter-library loan & now I'm rereading it 58 or so yrs later.

I've already called attn to there being a foreword by Dr. Edward Teller. What I'd forgotten about were the photographic illustrations by the author. Teller writes:

"When I was five years old I had one of those diseases about which mothers are terribly concerned; I believe it was tonsilitis. Late at night my mother heard me talking very indistinctly about something and asked me what I wanted. According to reliable family tradtition, my answer was, "a little railroad." This was clearly not what was expected from me at the moment. It happened, however, that Christmas came not much later. I got my little railroad and was quite puzzled how my most secret desire had been found out.

"I was fortunate, but clearly not as fortunate as Ted in this book who gets one of those model railroads in which everything is really real—well almost. Just to read it should be a pleasure." - p 5

My quoting the above is partially just to allow me to go off on a tangent about tonsillitis. When I was 6, around the time I read this bk, I was sd to have tonsillitis & was put under w/ ether & had my tonsils removed. It's my opinion that I've had troubles w/ my throat ever since. It's also my opinion that the operation was completely unnecessary & that the 1950s - 1960s was a time when surgeons just wanted to practice giving tonsillectomies & the children of concerned parents were easy marks.

"Aside from some life-threatening complications, there are also some expected tonsillectomy side effects. Many people experience nausea and vomiting, throat pain, difficulty swallowing, low grade fever, bad breath, earaches and fatigue. The likelihood of you having these side effects varies greatly, as does the severity of the symptoms if you should have them. It is widely believed that children tend to have a shorter and "easier" recovery." - https://www.verywellhealth.com/tonsil...

I've recently developed what may be the 'mysterious' esophageal spasms. I wonder if it's a long-delayed side-effect of a tonsillectomy. At any rate, I'm generally sceptical of what I consider to be an over-rated faith in the wisdom of drs & their mania for intervening in bodily processes.

As soon as I started reading the 1st chapter of Me and Frumpet I had a vague feeling of remembering:

"But this year my last present was special. It was a card that said TED from DAD with a long red string on it.

""It's just a piece of string," I said.

""Follow it, Ted."" - p 7

So Ted followed it & retched the end of the bk & that was that.


"I pulled it in, hand over hand. Mother laughed. "Follow it," she said. "Don't pull."

"It was a long one. It dropped from the tree down to the floor and then went lazy around the edge of the couch toward the back hall. It spilled down the steps to the cellar. It was a very long string. The end was tied to a doorknob on a room Mother used for a laundry before we got our square white washing machine with the window in it like a fake television.

""A door!" I said. "What a present, a door!"" - p 7

Of course, what he gets is beyond the door, it's an H-O gauge railroad where everything's to scale & his dad assembled it & built things for it & painted it himself.

"But I remembered one thing there wasn't any of. People." - p 10

Maybe his dad was an architect.

THE BOY makes a little man out of pipe-cleaners & gives him a toothpick cane. He wants to add him to the train garden but THE DAD is being very proprietary & doesn't want some unreal slgihtly oversized critter spoiling HIS creation. His dad says the figure is too "frumpish" &, so the figure becomes named Frumpet by the boy.

THE DAD doesn't want Frumpet to be part of the train garden because he'd been bragging to his coworkers about how perfectly to scale he'd made everything & he doesn't want them to see it w/ an imperfection. Ted, THE BOY, says he'll talk to Frumpet about it. THE DAD thinks this is preporsterous b/c Frumpet 'isn't real'. Ted goes to bed with Frumpet next to his ear & they have a long conversation in which Frumpet expresses his desire to be in the train garden. Ted recounts this to THE DAD along w/ Frumpet's complaints about the people that THE DAD has added to the environment.

""You don't even know what antisocial means."

""I do, too. The little railroad men won't pay any attention to Frumpet. They won't talk. They won't shake hands. They won't nod when he goes by. They won't blink an eyewinker. They're just like they were made of iron."

"They are made of iron."

""See!" I said.

""Ted!" my father said. "I want you to get something straight. What's your Frumpet made of, anyway? He's nothing but some wire and some cotton or something. Am I not right?"


""Well now, that's a relief," Dad said. "So, you see, he can't be alive or anything preposterous like that. He's only some wire and cotton or something."

""So what?" I said. "You're alive, aren't you? And you're just made of some bone and blood and a lot of jelly sort of stuff all scrunched together so it looks like you.""

"My father made a grunt. He wiped his forehead with his arm like he'd been working. He said, "Theodore Church, are you going to believe your own father, or some little dream you had about an old twisted pipe cleaner?"

""Don't you call Frumpet an old twisted-up pipe cleaner or I won't live with you any more. I'll grow little like Frumpet and go live with the germs."" - p 24-25

Weelllll, this little bit of dialog is so choice that I just want to keep on quotin' but there comes a time in a reviewer's life when s/he just has to draw a line. & so the contest between THE DAD & Frumpet begins.

"My father made a face, but he got a ruler and a pencil. And a piece of paper. He measured the little engineer and he said, "Five-sixths of an inch. Now take five-sixths of an inch eighty-seven times. . . ." He scribbled down numbers, "You get seventy-two and a half inches, or six feet, just my height."" - p 28

Now note that THE DAD says "my height". This gets twisted around by the pipe cleaner.

""Monster, you can tell your father he is not eighty-seven times bigger. You tell him he is SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND times bigger."" - p 32

I.E.: if entire body size is counted rather than just height. That's not fair, Frumpet.

"At breakfast he said, "Ted, I worked it out on paper—eighty-seven times eighty-seven times eighty-seven—and you were right. Now tell me: how could a buy your age figure it all out?"

""It's a secret, " I said. "Besides, you wouldn't believe who told me."

"The secret was what Frumpet showed me" - p 38

Nope, that's not fair. The father's original claim was just that he was 87 times taller than the iron railroad man. That "taller" didn't include breadth & depth.

Somehow, Ted gets scaled down to walk in the train garden.

""Frumpet," I said, "I'm not really in Old Wilting, am I? That's impossible!"

""Possible or not, let's get going. We haven't got all night, Ted."

"Hey!" I said, "you called me Ted. And your voice is changing. No squeak. It's deep and rumbly."

""My voice hasn't changed," Frumpet said, starting past the station. "Nothing's changed but the size of your ears."" - p 52

Ted changes scale & enters the train garden again where he rescues Frumpet from a spider's web. They climb the mountain.

"Before we went down, I looked around and saw the sky behind me was reddish with a little light in it. "Pretty sunset," I said.

""Don't bump it," Frumpet answered. "You'll smudge it."

""How come a sunset in the middle of the night?"

""It's always there, Ted. And you can tell your father those water paints come off too easily."" - p 89

NOW, I don't believe in God or Gods, etc, but imagine THE DAD as the train garden's God. From THE DAD God's perspective the train garden looks realistic. With his big hands n'at he did a pretty good job w/ the details — but from Frumpet's & the shrunken Ted's perspective, it's pretty shoddy. What if religious people were to decide to apply a similar critical perspective to 'God's creations'? "I have cancer because God did such a sloppy job of making me. At least he could've made me immortal without any problems. I mean, I didn't ask to be here." That seems fair to me. If God weren't already just a stupid fantasy used by unscrupulous people to justify more or less any crime, he'd have to be fired for incompetence.

Ted is trying to convince THE DAD that Frumpet has the right to remain in Old Wilting so they had a bet on to decide. THE DAD wins points by proving the correctness of the scale & Frumpet wins points by proving contradictions.

""And my father didn't make any scale time for Old Wilting!"

"I knew by the way that my dad pretended he was asleep that he really wasn't, so I told him about the pendulum—the BB on a string. And finally he admitted, "Yes, you're right. And, yes, that gives you two and a half points, now to my four.["]" - pp 99-100

Ted & Frumpet keep working at demonstrating that Old Wilting isn't really thoroughly to scale at all.

""You didn't make the right sized sound in Old Wilting, and I can prove it," I said.

""What on earth are you talking about?"

"I mean, if you want some little person in Old Wilting to hear you, you got to talk much higher and much, much faster. And if you had the right kind of whistle on the train, it would blow so high a whistle that you couldn't hear it at all."" - p 120

Ted wins the bet, Frumpet can stay in Old Wilting, & Ted makes more pipe-cleaner people to keep Frumpet company.

"I said, "Those six men over by the milk truck are scientists."

""Oh?" my father said. "For any particular reason?"

""Of course. Their job is to try to fix up some of the things you forgot to so all these people can have a good life in Old Wilting. They'll try to discover how to make scale food and try to invent the right sized fire and water and air and all that stuff."" - p 127

SO, here I am having just reread something I 1st read 58 or 59 yrs ago. It still works for me on many levels. Why has it been out-of-print since its 1st & only printing in 1958? Is this yet-another instance of my finding something important & admirable that other people find of no interest?!

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Reading Progress

April 18, 2008 – Shelved
April 18, 2008 – Shelved as: children
Started Reading
February 2, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy You have the right book, even if you remember it slightly off. The story was written by my father-in-law, so I know it well. It revolves around the fact that the boy's father doesn't want the boy to put Frumpet into the train layout because he is not "to scale" Frumpet conspires with the boy to prove that not everything in the miniature world works the way it would in our world--thus the subtitle "an adventure with size and science".

Tentatively, Convenience Thanks for the comment!! It's really exciting to get input from someone so close to the source. I read it around 1960 or 1961 so it's no surprise that I don't have a good memory of it. I shd mention that it was probably in my top 10 most important bks for me as a child & was no doubt a great influence on what little interest in science I have. By about 1963 or 1964 I was enthusiastic about Charles Proteus Steinmetz & even dressed like him for a costume event. Perhaps that was at the height of my interest in science. I'll have to reread both Frumpet & the bio of Steinmetz that I read eventually.

message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy Evans is not alive (he'd be 98) but I will tell his kids. You read it just a couple of years after it was published. Evans used all three of his sons for the photos in the book. The one I love the most is of my husband (probably 10 at the time) with Frumpet on his nose.

I am working on a little story, based on a slice of my father-in-law's life, for my grandson. In the process I have found out more about Dr. Teller. While many of his ideas were Strangelove-ish, he also was one of the first scientists of note to speak out about global warming, and it's relationship to the burning of fossil fuels. Of course his solution was nuclear energy, which is not mine, but even so, it is sad to think that we might have started to address climate change in the 1950's.

Tentatively, Convenience Thanks again for further feedback! I'm extremely impoverished but in another wk I'll have enuf to buy a few things & this exchange encourages me to add Frumpet (as I'll continue to affectionately reduce the title) to the list of things I'll probably buy.

As for Teller? I don't really know much of anything about him. My statement that he's "the so-called "father of the hydrogen bomb" who Dr. Strangelove might've been modelled after" wasn't meant to be an end-all judgment of him. I admit to a bias against weapons of mass destruction & consider the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki to be inexcusably horrific. Nonetheless, I can see yr point about Teller's wisdom regarding climate change & that makes me appreciate him more. Good luck w/ yr story!

Tentatively, Convenience Ha ha! I just looked for available copies of "Me and Frumpet. An adventure with size and science" &, WOW!!, are they priced out of my range!! Hint to publishers: reprint this!

message 6: by Amy (new)

Amy yes, I also checked to see if there were any copies available, and was shocked at the prices people thought someone would pay. You might call their bluff and suggest a more reasonable one. Unfortunately I don't have an extra copy myself. I don't have much hope for a reprinting. If you are ever in Northern Ca, get in touch and I will let you reread mine.

Tentatively, Convenience Thanks for the offer. Now that my interest is rearoused I checked for it in my excellent local library & they don't have it. I checked in World Cat & they do — so then I put in a request through Interlibrary Loan. My relationship with the book is like a mystery: who gave me a copy or did I find it somehow on my own or through a recommendation from my Elementary School librarian? There's no way my parents would've given me something that interesting & I probably don't have a copy anymore because my OCD mom probably threw it away. Rereading it will be like searching for clues to my past. Given my obsession with reading, books that I read as a child were extremely formative for me.

message 8: by Amy (new)

Amy I don't come often to Goodreads, and just found your message of 2 years ago! Glad you found a copy Frumpet! My email address is amylvalens@comcast.net if you want to get in touch.

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