Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
March 20th, 2012
Advance Reading Copy – Uncorrected Proof
Jacket Art: Evan B. Harris
Every once in a while I stumble across a book that totally surprises and engages me and is interesting enough to keep my attention through one sitting. Wonder Show, the debut novel, by Hannah Barnaby is just such a book. It is a quick read and, while labeled a children’s book, it contains many adult themes and views yet is perfectly suitable for children and adults of all ages. Wonder Show does not fit neatly into any one genre but, in my opinion, crosses over into many. It is a Young Adult book with aspects of a coming of age transformation but reads like a gothic, urban fantasy. Add a minor mystery, some suspense, and a surprise ending and you’ll begin to understand what I mean by crossing genres. There is a quest; the main character, Portia Remini, searches for both her father and her freedom after running away from a Home For Wayward Girls to join the circus. There is also a mystery. Why are Portia’s files kept secret by the proprietor of the Home she’s been sentenced to? And, finally, it crosses social boundaries (but, I might add, with great care) by referring to the “freaks” and “normals” found in the Wonder Show which is, in essence, a traveling circus.
Wonder Show, however, is not a tale about the differences between the circus freaks, those who make their livings as side-show attractions, and the so-called normal people who travel with them and those that come to gawk at them. Instead it is about the similarities and the feelings and emotions of everyone regardless of their physical disposition. Hannah Barnaby handles this delicate issue with concern, aplomb, and the elegance the subject deserves as she slowly transforms the freaks into real people with the most normal and endearing of human feelings.
Told from the points of view of numerous characters Wonder Show is a tightly written account set during the Great Depression about a young girl who is in search of adulthood, fights to achieve her own independence, and attempts to break free from the traps of loneliness and abandonment. I personally enjoyed every minute of this story and recommend it for young adults, old adults, those fascinated by the circus and side-show performers, anyone who enjoys a good coming of age story, those looking for a quick read, and all urban or gothic fantasy enthusiasts.
5 out of 5 stars
Jacket Art by Evan B. Harris