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Sawdust in His Shoes

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  144 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Joe Lang, at age 15, is a rising star in the circus, but when he loses his father, he becomes an unwanted orphan. He finds his way to a loving, hard-working farm family in Oregon, learns about the lives of the "gillies," and finds a kind of happiness he never knew before. Still he dreams of finding his way back to rings and his friends, especially the clown Mo Shapely.
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published December 1st 1994 by Buccaneer Books (first published June 1950)
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4.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  144 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This remains my all-time favorite book. I was in love with Joe and most of the names on the check-out card from my tiny Iowa school are mine. The copy I have is from the school when it got rid of 'outdated' books. Let's all start lobbying publishers to print it again!
laurel [suspected bibliophile]
Gorry am I ever a sucker for circus books—and throw in a horse (or two), and I'm sold!

Joe Lang is descended from one of the finest circus families in the world—but his life comes crashing down around him when his lion tamer father dies and the new orphan is stranded in a boy's house in Pineville, Oregon. After a daring escape, Joe finds his way to a farmer and his family...and gets hired on. But for a boy with sawdust in his shoes, the only thing that'll make him happy is the circus.

This was a s
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: youth-books
Excellent book, if you can get ahold of a copy since it is out of print. I met the cousin of the author who lent us a signed copy. You can buy copies on ebay for about $225. My daughter and I read it together and recommend it to anyone from 9-99!!
It was a long time ago when two friends and I were book shopping online for our private school library. One of the friends highly recommended "Sawdust in His Shoes." We were dismayed to learn the book was out of print and the available books were outrageously priced. Fortunately the book was to be reprinted somewhere in the uncertain future. My friends told me to order four copies, one for each of us and one for the school. We waited for months. I thought the books would never arrive but eventua ...more
Mary Cartledgehayes
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I read this book in fourth grade, and it made me want to be a writer. The end of the first chapter left me in tears -- first time for a book. Also, a scene of a family by lamplight with Joe, the main character, a dour bare-back rider of a boy who ran away from the circus, sitting in the dark outside the circle, observing the difference between them and himself showed me that language can create not only a life but a world. Still a treasure.
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Oh, how I loved this book! I spent most of my middle school years reading and rereading this book!
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Joe Lang is a third generation of a circus family. By the time he is fifteen years old, Joe is a star bareback horse rider. When his father dies, he is forced to go to a vocational school. Unhappy, he runs away and is taken in by a farmer and his family. Joe doesn’t know what to think as he is mistrustful of non-circus people. Will Joe be able to be part of their family? Does Joe want to go back to the circus? Will he?

This is an excelling coming-of-age novel. It is engaging. Each of the characte
Trish Boese
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, young-adult
5* Our family enjoyed this read-aloud. We loved Joe Lang, the fearless bareback circus rider. We also found our kindred spirits in the Dawson family. Some lessons Joe learned on the Dawson farm were honesty, trust, hard work, and what it means to be a family - taking care of each other and having fun. Highly recommend this book for family story time.
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A bit long, but then, it's not really a juvenile, more for teens. Joe is 15 and considers passing for 18 so he doesn't have to deal with the judge and the orphanage, but he has such a manly sense of honor that he doesn't. He's no goody-goody, but he is strong & brave and a good role model. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Fans of circuses would likely enjoy it even more, even though, at the same time, they'd resent the many pages that aren't circus related. Fans of historical Oregon might li ...more
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Such a goodie, and so much fun to read to my kids. I hide my grin as the main character, Joe, shakes his black hair out of his eyes and gives wild looks around rooms in almost every chapter, because I know all the girls are secretly in love with him. There's enough foreshadowing that kids regularly give me "Ah-ha, I know what's coming" looks, which is always fun. There are a couple of action (even fist fight!) scenes that delight them all. And I like the historical details, the good role models, ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A circus boy looses his father and the circus at the same time. This book is about prejudging and values.
Tamika Koehn
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had heard so much about this book so finally decided to read it. I was pleasantly surprised! I would have loved it as a kid (because I did as an adult) and would like to buy a copy for my kid’s bookshelf
Melanie Dulaney
Newbery winner Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s “Sawdust in His Shoes” was published in 1950 and will be re-issued in June of ‘18. The story of circus born and bred Joe Lang is timeless and will be a hit with my Gen Z kids as much as it likely was more than 50 years ago. Joe is a bareback rider who dreams of top billing in a major circus just like his parents, but tragedy and hardship strike at every turn. Readers will read anxiously as hot headed, 15 year old Joe navigates new homes, both good and bad, n ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At one time or another, haven’t we all wanted to run away to join the circus. Joe’s journey back to the circus in the book, Sawdust in His Shoes, will rekindle those feelings. I read that this was called one of the ten books every child should read. I had not read when I was young, so I couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about. I will also admit I was skeptical since I often do not agree with those kinds of lists. Not this time! Now that I have read it, I must agree that Sawdust in His S ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So excited to finally have a copy of this book again. I lost my copy my freshman year in college and have been looking for another ever sense. It's not really my book now... I had to buy a thing called "Four Complete Novels for Teenagers" but that just means I get Big Red and two other books that someone thought was great.
Denise L Jenne
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book around the time I was in junior high -- or maybe even earlier, but I still remember the basic story and how it touched my heart.
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
While Mara remains my favorite McGraw book, I read Sawdust numerous times as well.
Laura Reading
This is the sort of book one reads for fun, regardless of your age. A book that will appeal to all ages.
On the surface it is an adventure story, about a boy born and raised in the circus way of life. Before he is legally an adult, he becomes orphaned. Although another man technically raised Joe, it has to be determined that he is a responsible guardian. As we all discover at some point in our lives, those making decisions about us seem to take a very long time.
Joe ends up in a bad situation and
Sherry Klusman
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The story of 15-year old Joe Lang reads like a motion picture! A child born and raised in a circus environment forced to face the death of a parent, uprooted from his place of comfort and abruptly torn away from any sense of tranquility is portrayed through the author's exceptional grace with words enabling the reader to feel every intense, mysterious, rebellious, awkward, sad emotion portrayed by Mo, the Dawson family, Joe himself as well as neighbors and friends. Every gust of wind, the smell ...more
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review and others posted over at my blog.

I won a copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for my honest review.

I didn’t know until after finishing this book that it was actually written in 1950; that explains the authenticity, but it doesn’t feel dry like some older texts have the tendency to do (at least for me).

When I threw my name in the hat for this book, I was looking for a change of pace. Y’all know I love me some middle-grade and I usually drift towards the fantastical. It w
Kest Schwartzman
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
received through librarything's early review program

This is a lovely book. It is very much a product of the 50s, as far as gender roles go, but despite that is refreshingly free of misogyny. And the story is just lovely; sweet, true, honest about how terrible living with a teen can be, and doesn't fall for the trope of "what s wonderful life" in pretending that beating someone's dreams out of them is ok, as long as they achieve someone else's dream. Ok, it's true, I specifically hate that movie,
I received this through the Goodreads Giveaway program.

This is the first book I've read by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. I've always been impressed with Newberry books so I knew I wanted to read it...and I'm so glad I did.

The characters in the book draw you into a story about the circus, emotional pain and a yearning for a way of living lost. They must focus on the future possibilities and skills that will take them in new directions.

Topics included; Circus life. Farm life. Being an orphan. Being a circ
Massanutten Regional Library
Autumn, North River patron, June 2018, 4 stars:

This is a story about a young boy that grows up in the Circus life but at a very young age is faced with many hardships that he must overcome. The story leads him to a family that exudes kindness and welcomes him into their lives. A good read to share with the entire family.
Terry Yaceyko
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: old-favorites
This was another lovely read. I recently moved and had to declutter some of my books - and saved my favorites. I was so glad I saved this one. It is a keeper.
I loved how the author introduced me to Joe Lang and then how he was placed in a family - one that wasn't familiar with his way of life, but oh, how they connected and grew together.
I love the whole story and the ending was perfect.
Darby Karchut
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A charming, old-school story, first released in the 1950s. While a lot of readers commented that they wanted to join the circus after reading SAWDUST IN HIS SHOES, the writing and characters made me want to go live on a bucolic farm in Oregon in the early 1900s. Glad I took a chance on this one.

I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Susan E. Marshall
One of my favorite books from childhood; started a long love affair with Jarvis McGraw's other novels.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My students really enjoyed it!! And so did I :)
Rhonda Lomazow
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved loved this book the circus a young boy all the emotions we experience .Highly recommend grab for yourself and young ones to treasure.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After years of wishing and ranting, this book is BACK IN PRINT!!! I promptly bought copies for me and each one of my family members who read the library copy over and over as kids.
Clare O'Beara
This Oregon based book is an American classic but I had never seen it before, which is why reprints are wonderful. A boy called Joe has to leave the circus life after the death of his dad. He can't settle in the industrial school - this is the early twentieth century - and runs away, to be taken in by a farm family in need of a strong young worker. Joe loves their Morgan mare Satin on sight and thinks if he keeps up training with her, he could return to being a spangles, a bareback rider, someda ...more
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Sawdust In His Shoes. [s] 3 18 Jun 26, 2018 07:31AM  

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Eloise Jarvis McGraw was an author of children's books. She was awarded the Newbery Honor three times in three different decades, for her novels Moccasin Trail (1952), The Golden Goblet (1962), and The Moorchild (1997). A Really Weird Summer (1977) won an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America. McGraw had a very strong interest in history, and among the many book ...more