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Son of the Circus - A Victorian Story

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Voices: Son of the Circus - A Victorian Story explores the life of a young mixed-race boy, Ted, living with his mother and poorly older brother in Victorian Bradfield.
When a stranger, a man the boys don't remember ever seeing before, appears in their kitchen, Ted is hit with a shocking revelation. This man is his father - the first black circus owner in Victorian Britain, Pablo Fanque.

Before Ted can recover from his shock, he is sent away with Pablo to learn the tricks of the circus trade. Pablo is determined for Ted to follow in his footsteps. But can Ted adapt to this terrifying new life amongst strangers? And will he ever see his beloved mother and brother again? Fresh new voice, E. L. Norry, continues this exciting new series that explores authentic and moving accounts of the life of British immigrants throughout history. Norry shows us a fascinating and rarely seen world that's sure to hook young readers.

208 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 2019

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E.L. Norry

9 books10 followers

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5 stars
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15 (39%)
3 stars
8 (21%)
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2 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Tony Ryan.
Author 5 books13 followers
September 27, 2020
I read this book in anticipation of using it with my Year six (key stage 2) primary class. I didn’t like it at first, as the language felt a little anachronistic. However, by the halfway point I’d started to empathise with some of the characters and could see that it would definitely be enjoyable to youngsters. It also seemed to end a little abruptly, with plenty of scope for further storytelling. Nevertheless, as a discussion for my class in both reading and history, it will definitely serve as a useful tool.
Profile Image for JD.
8 reviews
September 26, 2020
This part of a series of books and I found this one fun, refreshing, and informative. I think middle grade readers will find a friend in the main character, Ted. And what young reader hasn’t dreamed at least once about going off to join the circus. Now this story is set in the late 1800’s in England which for me made it even more interesting since the time period made it feel like visiting another world. To take financial pressure off his mum, Ted is whisked away to the circus by his father, Pablo Fanque (the first black circus owner in Britain). However Ted’s not very keen about circus life. He struggles to live up to his father’s expectations and has trouble fitting in with some of the other circus folk. They’re so different from Ted’s old life. Without ruining the story, one of the best aspects is the love hate relationship that grows between Ted and Larkin (a boy slightly his senior). Siblings will immediately recognize the back and forth swing of emotions. There are some touching moments and some scary moments for Ted as he tries to find his place in a world he’s never known. In the end, he comes to see that not all families live under a single roof…some of them live in tents. I highly recommend this story to anyone looking for a fun read that will keep kids engaged while they learn about a not often explored slice of history.
Profile Image for Christina Reid.
1,212 reviews75 followers
February 14, 2020
I really like this series of 'Voices' looking at lesser-known narratives from history. They are written in an accessible and inviting way and shine a light on viewpoints that are not always widely covered. This story follows a young mixed-race boy whose father runs a circus and whose mother has given up her life on the road to raise her two sons, but still faces discrimination because she is married to a black man.
Ted is a realistic, though at times rather annoying protagonist and I enjoyed seeing his growth throughout the book. It made me want to find out more about this time period and the real people behind the story. Perfect for primary libraries and I will be looking out for more books from this series in the future.
Profile Image for Alysa.
Author 2 books87 followers
April 14, 2020
I loved this book and the insight into voices that have been so underrepresented in literature. Ted is a mixed-race boy living with his mother and older brother when their long-absent father arrives one day to take Ted off to join the circus. Terrified of horses and confused by the appearance of a father he's never known Ted is faced with adjusting to a new life, and a new way of thinking about himself.
I was so happy to read a story centering voices and lives we have, until now, read so little about. what a great and important book for school readers!
480 reviews5 followers
November 19, 2020
This is a children's book but, as an adult I very much enjoyed it. Pablo Fanque was a real-life circus owner and performer in the 19th Century. He was unusual in that he was a person of colour and this novel combines fact with fiction as it weaves a story around the known facts. It would seem that the idea of running away to join a circus, which most of us fantasised about in our youth, does not lose its magic as we grow older!
35 reviews
July 18, 2022
I can see this being valuable and exciting for kids! However thought the writing style was a bit stunted and swapped to frequently between language of the time period and modern day language for me to be fully immersed in either time period. Characters were sweet though and I enjoyed Ted a lot even though we was a bit moany haha
Profile Image for Paula Hale.
225 reviews1 follower
March 17, 2021
Another excellent book in the Voices Series. This will go straight into my classroom for children to choose.
Profile Image for Elspeth.
21 reviews2 followers
November 18, 2021
In this exciting novel about Victorian England, young Ted Darby finally meets his father, Pablo Fanque, a Black equestrian and circus owner, and reluctantly joins his circus troupe. (You might be familiar with Pablo Fanque from the Beatles song “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” which was based on an advertisement for his circus.) Norry sticks quite closely to historical facts here — Ted Darby, later Ted Fanque, was a real person, too, who performed in his dad’s circus. This is Ted Darby’s coming-of-age story and Ted Fanque’s origin story: how he conquers his fear of horses and finally finds joy in performing. But of course it’s also a story about Black Britons in the Victorian era. Ted experiences a brutal racist attack midway through the book, and he and his father have some frank discussions about what it’s like to be Black in Britain. It’s a very good read, with plenty of Victorian detail, and it’s brilliant that you can look up Pablo Fanque and his family afterward — a wonderful way to get interested in history.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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