Wandering Librarians's Reviews > Wonder Show

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
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Mar 14, 12

bookshelves: family, fiction, friendship, middle-grade, historical-fiction
Read in March, 2012

After the terrible death of her friend Caroline, Portia runs away from Mister and the McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls and ends up in a traveling circus. Portia works in the sideshow, where she gets to know all the strange "freaks" that work there. Secretly, Portia hopes that she'll find her father, or better yet, that he'll find her. But Portia has more pressing problems to worry about, and Mister never lets anyone get away for long.

This was interesting. I enjoyed reading it, mostly because there was an excellent sense of place. It's the 1930s, and like most people, Portia's people have fallen on hard times and one by one drift away looking for work and money. Portia's father finally leaves, leaving Portia to her aunt Sophie, who eventually brings her to McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls, run by the creeptastic Mister who has all the girls working like slaves for him.

When Portia runs away and joins the circus, we get up close and personal with a 1930s freak show. As Barnaby mentions in her author's note, but the end of the 1930s sideshows had begun to fall out of favor, as people were beginning to feel that staring at "freaks" was perhaps inappropriate. But, as Barnaby also notes, for many of these people being able to work in a circus sideshow was one of the few paying jobs they'd be able to get. While most of the story focuses on Portia, we do get to get inside some of the heads of the other people who make up the sideshow, and I really enjoyed that.

As for the story itself, it strangely all felt like a set-up for future stories. I checked to see if this was the first in a series, but I couldn't find anything about it. That's definitely what it feels like though. We've met all these interesting characters with all sorts of different things going on. The sideshow people ultimately rescue Portia from Mister and become her family. We know that the ghost of Caroline is still floating around Portia. So...what now? Most of the story was just setting everything up and getting us familiar with the many characters. The plot seemed almost secondary. Is there going to be more?

If Wonder Show is a stand alone, it was kind of odd. If it's the set-up for a series I think it has the potential to be really interesting. I'll have to wait and see.

Wonder Show comes out March 20, 2012.
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