Ten-year-old Babo has grown up on an abandoned circus camp in a war-torn country, believing her circus-star parents will come back any day now. So she's none too happy when an American couple adopts her, calls her Betti, and takes her away from her fellow parentless friends, to a very confusing America. Betti misses her old home, and she's worried her real parents will never be able to find her. She's determined to run away, but as she gets to know her new parents, little sister, and even a new friend, Betti starts to feel like maybe she could be happy in her new American home.
I live on my ranchette on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, with dogs, cats, deer, and other wild animals. My environment is very serene; it is my writing sanctuary. Currently I'm writing plays and novels for kids.
One of my goals with NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE was to write a novel that would be relevant for both kids and adults. It's a tribute to any creative person who understands the joy, anguish, and hard labor involved in pursuing the artistic dream.
Fortunately I do other things, besides writing, or you'd think I was a very boring person. I foster rescue animals, take long hikes in the Texas hill country, laugh with friends (many of whom are writers), and I love to travel the world. I'm also very involved in social services. My second novel, BETTI ON THE HIGH WIRE, is loosely based on a two-year stint working with kids in a refugee camp.
I have an M.A. in Theatre Arts (Playwriting), and a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of Texas at Austin. I was the recipient of a Jerome Fellowship in Playwriting, and a Michener Fellowship from the University of Texas.
Thanks for reading, even if you arrived here by pure accident.
Privileged white author shoves words into little refugee girl's mouth. I know you've done work with refugees, woman, but that doesn't give you the right to speak as one of them, or to appropriate their struggle for your own profit and glory.
You go further, ignoring the fact that the countries responsible for all these wars you deplore are the ones you seem so desperate to valorize: rich, white, Western.
Teaching children, especially children of color, that they can trust policemen is painfully misleading, too.
"Don't worry, children. All these wars make our country richer, which mean we can take better care of you! And you don't really want to live in your dirty little homes anyway -- trust us. We're the good guys."
Finally, the prose is awful. These aren't the authentic thoughts fo a ten-year-old refugee. This is a white American churning out pulp for gullible first-worlders. "Diznee-land?" "Telee-vizion box?" REALLY? Furthermore, this author has literally smushed an assortment of actual third-world countries into one FICTIONAL dystopia.
I should be grateful it's so poorly written: the stilted prose will causes many readers to question if a refugee would really think these thoughts or whether the character's just being used as a mouthpiece by this author.
My 11 year old daughter read this and says it was the best book that she's read. And she's a big reader. She insisted that I read it -- and I'm glad I did! And I'm glad she loved it!
I'm not going to rate it, because I very rarely read YA books, so mine wouldn't be a fair scale. But I would recommend it to kids. Yes, it's straight forward, and no, it's not complicated or layered. But it's geared toward tweens! And in that way, I think it does a good job at introducing the complexities of refugees, war, and international adoptions to young kids.
My daughter said "you're going to cry!" and know what? I did! I found this a great book for us to discuss together, the main discussion/theme being the current refugee crisis. It's a book that, I think, can open young hearts and minds, and I would recommend it.
Ok, yes. Yes, you know pretty much exactly what's going to happen as soon as you read a summary of this book. Yes, most of the characters are pretty darn flat. Yes, there are some cheesy parts.
But I have a weakness for adoption stories. But the way that the author never reveals the country of origin is clever clever clever. But the way that Betti approaches amerikan society with a completely fresh perspective is so illuminating. But I loved the way that she deconstructed words so that she ate her first meal of the day really quickly, not knowing what "break" meant, but understanding what "fast" meant. But I loved the way that she hoarded food, never knowing when she'd be hungry again.
A beautiful story, when it comes right down to it. I'm looking forward to booktalking this one.
30% done and I can't keep reading. I have no curiosity whatsoever because I am pretty sure I can see where it is going. It comes from the imagination of the adoptive parent regarding what may be going on inside the head of a 10 year old, adopted from an unspecified war-torn land. The child is at an exceptionally difficult age for any adoption, and she wants to stay with what is familiar but she is not given that option and who would deny her a wealthy family, even if she doesn't want it?
What is bothering me most is that it is written in the first person, which would work if it were consistent but the adult voice sneaks in for clarity and constantly jars one out of the child's head. For instance, the narration of events is written at about a fifth grade level. But when the protagonist Betti quotes herself, she speaks in broken English full of childish fantasies and interpretation of her inner life (sounding closer to the age of 6--which could be authentic except her narration then goes back to the adult author's clarity.)
I might have liked it a lot better while I was waiting to adopt my first child. It might have given me some ideas about how to be sensitive to her transition. But there are also a lot of assumptions that might not have fit for her, if I believed that all kids think the same way about their adoptions.
Clearly, I am not be in the right place for this book. Will spare it a rating because a) I couldn't finish it and b) I am feeling too close to the material to rate fairly.
Or so she thinks. Sadly, Babo's reality is another. Her country is being torn by war and her parents are both dead, leaving her in the care of Auntie Moo, a woman who kindly took charge of the orphaned circus children after an attack. Luckily for Babo, an American family filed adoption papers. But will Babo, with her broken eye and missing toes, be able to adjust in her new country?
Railsback didn't hold back on the heartwrenching material. Babo's insistence that her parents are alive brought tears to my eyes, as I understood that adjusting to a new country is one thing, but accepting that your family has changed is entirely other. Not only does she have a new mom and dad, but also a younger sister, Lucy. The way these two adjust to one another is touching and very realistic.
A great story that reminds us not all memories need to fade in order to make new ones.
**Although, the MC is in Elementary school and still speaks like a child, I find that war, adoption, grief, and self-esteem issues are too heavy for a 3rd grader. Hence why I shelved it as YA**
I won this book on good-reads first-reads, it is an audio book, I ended up listening to most off it and then I got it at the library, becasue I wanted to take it with me to finish it and I read faster then she was talking. I liked both versions, it was an eye opening book on what it might be like for some refuge, foreign children when they first come to America. It broke my heart some, and made me want to be more patient with them.
Sounded better than it was. A young girl from an unnamed war torn country is adopted by an American couple and their daughter. The author's writing style kept me off balance, and Betti was just weird enough to not be totally sympathetic or likeable. I give it a shrug.
There's no limit to the number of beautiful stories, like this one, that the world is ready to receive. I feel certain that for many years to come, Betti on the High Wire will be a surprising and special revelation to thousands of readers who take a chance on it, branching out to discover the remarkable talent and emotional insight with which Lisa Railsback writes. Here is a story on par with just about anything else in the genre of children's literature from 2010, a book that I am very surprised wasn't given some kind of official Newbery recognition. I can't say enough how much I loved Betti on the High Wire.
From the narrative's onset I found it very interesting that the country Betti was originally from is never specifically named; definite labels that would positively identify the country are cleverly skirted throughout the story, leaving the impression that this was an intentional oversight, a fact which is confirmed in the "Note from the Author" section at the end of the book. Lisa Railsback explains that she refrained from identifying Betti's country so as not to put too fine a point on the plight of war orphans from such a variety of different countries around the globe. Confining Betti's origins to one nation in particular would necessarily limit the scope of the story, but since she could be from almost anywhere, and of virtually any race and culture, the resonance of her journey can be more widely felt. Of course, choosing to approach the writing of the book with this tack had to have presented some major challenges, as cultural information about Betti and her background couldn't ever be too specific, a firm precept that I'm sure had to be kept a close watch out for as the book was in development. From the finished product, though, it seems that this was no problem for Lisa Railsback, and the story shines with a tender brightness equaled by precious few others.
In her war-torn homeland, Betti is the unofficial leader of a ragtag group of refugee kids, all living in an old circus camp under the protection of a few ladies who do their best to guard them from any further harm. All of the children have been affected by the war to some degree: missing toes, arms and other body parts are the norm in a land so often besieged by bombs and surprise military offensives. Betti, who is about ten years old, has lost several of her toes and most of the sight in one eye, but somehow through all the tribulations she has naturally taken on a leadership role among her peers, and carved out a modestly happy life for herself among the ruins of the old circus camp. It was in this very camp, in fact, that three-year-old Betti had first been found by the benevolent Auntie Moo, the woman now in charge of the transient orphanage. Back then, soldiers had come upon the troupe of circus performers, who numbered among them Betti's parents, and slaughtered the defenseless bunch of entertainers for no real reason. Betti's parents had saved their daughter's life by hiding her away before the massacre began, and that is why Betti is now alive and one of the survivors, thriving in the little camp as well as a human being possibly could.
But there's more in store for Betti than a life of poverty in a nation overrun by perpetual violence. Hope personified has found her where she lives, in the form of one of the American couples that come along once in a while and are interested in adopting a refugee orphan and taking him or her back to the U.S. Though Betti is older than most of the others and wouldn't consider herself "cute" or as personally appealing as most of them are, one American couple is impressed by the strength of her will and her leadership over the other kids, and selects Betti to be their adopted daughter. Betti recoils at the decision, horrified at the thought of leaving her home to go to a strange country when she can hardly even speak its language, but she isn't going to be allowed the opportunity to turn down this chance of escaping the war and being brought to a land where peace reigns. Betti, who has convinced herself over the years that her parents aren't dead and will be coming back for her some day, will be going as far away from the circus camp as geographically possible, and there's no way to convince Auntie Moo or the others that it's a mistake to send her away.
By a gracious turn of fortune, though, Betti will not be alone as she departs the land of her birth for a new home in the new world. George, a kid from the shelter who is a few years younger than Betti, has been adopted by an American couple who lives in the same town as Betti's new parents. It's a very different matter to have to leave home behind entirely than it is to be able to bring something important along with you, especially when that something is a kid like George. George is one of those blessed individuals who takes everything just as it comes, accepting troubles (including one missing arm, courtesy of the war) and good fortune and dramatic life changes with happiness and great expectations for the future, a kid who was bound to get adopted eventually because who could help but love him? His personal fluidity will help Betti be more flexible in the areas where she instinctively wants to be rigid, because as much as she was in charge at the circus camp and was leader to George as follower, Betti really does need George, now more than ever.
It's not always easy for us to identify with someone in Betti's position, adjusting to a whole new culture on the fly when everyone around her is so fluent in the nuances of natural language that they never even think twice about explaining them to her. We're met head-on with this point constantly, though, via Betti's train of thought, which shows again and again how complicated it is for her (or anyone in her situation) to transfer what she knows and observes about the world around her into the quirky expressions that comprise the English language. I believe that we gain a greater appreciation for that struggle by seeing from the inside out the way that Betti thinks, and observing what difficulties catch her up most often.
This book is simply magnificent. There's no straightforward incline to Betti's progress as she adapts to her new kind of life (while all the time insisting that she's not adapting), but rather a stop-and-start, up-and-down sort of realistic version of progress that will resonate with readers as being much more believable and worth cheering for than if everything went perfectly. There are rough edges on Betti, sure, but who would expect otherwise from a kid who lived the first ten years of her life hiding out in a country decimated by war? Who would expect otherwise even from a child raised under ideal circumstances, when real life still has a way of poking holes in all of the protective layers we've so meticulously set up and drawing blood from the kid anyway? Betti has had a really hard time of it until now, but she has gotten away from a place where the ominous shadow of death looms large every single moment, and under her new circumstances the personal virtues that first drew her new parents to want to adopt her will find an inviting garden bed, a safe place to bloom. For Betti, things will never be as bad as they once were, and this story is really her gradual journey to the realization of that truth as she hesitantly puts down roots in America and comes to accept her new home, still without ever forgetting the pain of her past or the wonderful people back in her homeland who sacrificed so much to give her a chance to live free.
What a marvelous new writer we have in Lisa Railsback. I would be really surprised if she didn't win the Newbery Medal (or at the very least an Honor) at some point in the next several years. Her writing is clearly of the caliber expected year in and year out by the Newbery Committee, and her storytelling is emotionally affecting and a truly beautiful experience, as well as being consistently very funny. I would definitely give three and a half stars to Betti on the High Wire.
A good middle grade novel about Babo, an immigrant/refugee of war who has been adopted by an American family. This is a great story to introduce about war to the children, and how it will impact the kids in many countries. Babo is a great heroine, even though sometimes a little bit too one dimensional.
This book simplify some things, especially the importance of adjustment (mentally, culturally, etc) for immigrant kids who just arrived in the U.S. I can't imagine why Babo's adoptive parents didn't really teach her English, American culture, etc, and mostly left her to her own devices. But of course this is a middle grade book and not an adult fiction, so I think those weaknesses are still tolerable. Overall, a wonderful fiction book for middle graders.
I appreciated the story of Betti getting adopted from her war-torn country and the struggles she faced in coming to her new home. I couldn't get past the way the author depicted Betti learning English and the mistakes she made. It read like an Amelia Bedelia book to me (e.g. swimming poo for pool and toes for toast), and her spelling and comprehension errors seemed to be more for comic effect than anything else as they are incongruent with the way speakers of other languages learn English.
My mom bought this book for me when I was in third grade. This book is definitely not for a third-grade level but I read a higher level than the average so it was OK for me, but it might not be okay for every third grader. I recently re-read it, and I still love it. It really makes you want to keep reading, and you'll root for Betti on her path to a better life, even if she isn't rooting for herself.
I picked this book because it has my name in the Title. Lol. Quick fast read. Enjoyable for teenagers and young adults to read and relate to about children in war torn countries and how they adapt to US.
I felt like I understood a little bit better what it might be like to be adopted from a war torn country and come to America. The book succeeds in its quest to have the reader empathize with the protagonist. Very enjoyable and interesting.
Babo lives in the circus camp with the other left-over kids, orphans of an unnamed war in an unnamed country. She was found wandering in the destroyed camp when she was three-years-old, the only survivor of the traveling circus folk. But Babo believes her parents are still alive--her mother is the tallest woman in the world with a tail, her father the green alligator man and they live an active life in Babo's fertile imagination. Every night Babo tells her "Big Mouth" stories to the other kids in the camp, who hang on her every word and believe her stories as much as she believes them herself. With Auntie Moo, her stand-in mother figure and the adult in charge of the camp, Babo watches over her fellow leftover orphans, directs their games, and sleeps curled up with them at night in the lion's cage while bombs explode overhead. Babo likes her life, despite its hardships. She loves Auntie Moo, she loves her best friend, George, and she loves knowing that her parents will come back someday to find her. So when Americans, or melons as Babo calls them, show up at the camp, looking to adopt, Babo isn't interested. She never dreams she will be chosen; after all she's "broken" like so many of the others--Babo's eye was ruined in the war plus she's missing some toes. All of the kids are broken in some way, but Babo knows she isn't even pretty or friendly and cute, like George, despite his missing arm, plus she is a Big Mouth who always gets into mischief. So Babo is shocked when the melons, Mr. and Mrs. Buckworth, choose her to become their new daughter. The next thing she knows, Babo is on an airplane to America and a whole new life with a new name, Betti. Some of the leftovers would love to be the chosen one, but all Babo wants is a way back to her own country, her circus camp, and the parents she knows will come for her someday.
I loved Betti/Babo. The author wrote her so well, with such humor, and with obvious understanding of the cultural confusion her main character would suffer. Babo feels real, and the reader cheers her on, hurts for her, laughs with her, and worries with her. Not only does the author do a stellar job portraying Babo's foreign point of view, but she does a stellar job writing from a child's point of view. Culture aside, Babo is a ten-year-old kid who reads like a ten-year-old kid, and the social conflicts she faces are dead on recognizable to anyone who remembers the joys and agonies of childhood. This book would be perfect for a fifth or sixth grade reader, although older readers (I am obviously much older than that) will also love it. In an end note, the author explains why she did not name Babo's country, and I agreed with her decision. Tragically, there are so many coutnries plagued by endless wars and so many orphans of those endless conflicts, that the author decided not to choose. Instead Babo stands for all of those children who have suffered in all of those many countries. She also stands for those who have survived. Babo is a triumph.
At 10, Babo is the oldest in a camp of “leftover kids” who have lost their parents to war. She helps Aunt Moo care for the littler ones and likes to tell stories of her mama and dad who were in the circus. When families from America adopt Babo and her friend George, she worries that if she leaves, her parents won’t be able to find her when they come back. Babo, now Betti, finds her new home confusing and has trouble fitting in. She wants to go back to her home country, but each day she finds another reason to stay just a little while longer.
Betti on the High Wire by Lisa Railsback is a look at the tragedy caused by civil strife through a child’s eyes. In her home country Babo is innocent and war-savvy at the same time. She believes the circus stories told about her parents and other performers, but she knows how to hide and protect those around her when the soldiers come. Railsback deliberately doesn’t name the place where Babo is from because there are so many places in the world that are just like the one described in the book.
In the U.S., Betti is out of her element. No one depends on her for protection and she’s free to be a child without worries. Yet because she doesn’t understand the difference between her new life and her old, she worries about everything—having enough food to eat, staying safe from the police and even sleeping in a quiet house.
Betti on the High Wire is a great way to introduce younger readers to life in war-torn countries. It’s enlightening without being too graphic or despairing. Betti has hope, and she learns how to help make a difference in her new world and her old one. As she tries to make sense of the world around her, she’ll break your heart then put it back together again. I highly recommend Betti on the High Wire for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12.
At ten years old Babo is the oldest of the “leftover” kids living at an abandoned circus camp in a small, forgotten, war-struck town. All children at the abandoned camp have no family and are slightly deformed, Babo has a “broken eye” that is completely blind, but that does not stop her from imagination, creativity and caring for the younger children. She is very mischievous and gets herself and others in loads of trouble at the camp. Babo is one of the only children living there that does not want to leave. Although she knows her parents died in the brutal war against the foreigners, she believes if she stays at the circus her parents will be able to find her just where they left her. Her family was the leftover kids at the camp, and when she is suddenly adopted and shipped away to America, she tries everything to get back to her beloved family. Despite her attempts to be sent back to her town, she is stuck in America, where everyone and everything is so different. After spending about a week in America, Betti (as her adopted parents named her) starts to feel like a traitor to her country. She is beginning to like the foreigners and even made a friend named Mayda, who is a lot like her. After realizing she wouldn’t be hurting her friends from her old country by having fun in America, she begins to enjoy herself with her new family and friends. I thought this book was beautifully written and quite a nice story. I recommend this book to youth who enjoy a fun to read realistic fiction.
I got the ARC of this book from Goodreads, and it's a winner! Betti is rescued from a makeshift refugee camp on the grounds of an old circus and adopted by an American family. But the transition isn't easy for her. She's tough as nails on the outside, but inside she's afraid of hunger, soldiers, bombs, Americans, and what might be happening to the other children at the camp without her to take care of them.
There's enough going on in this book to please people reading for plot - in some ways it's almost Junie B. Jones-ish as Betti gets into scrapes either by accident or because she thinks if she's bad enough she'll get sent back to her own country - but it's the characterization that makes the story. Betti, her adoptive parents, the other kids, and the American "melons" come across clearly.
Railsback makes the decision not to name Betti's country or describe her skin color. Although it's occasionally strange-sounding to hear everyone referring to "your country" instead of naming it, there's something powerful about having to acknowledge that it could be so many places where wars leave kids homeless.
I would buck the "age of protagonist equals age of reader" trend and recommend this book for a YA audience even though Betti is ten. Older kids will appreciate the concept that Betti is an unreliable narrator and read for what's *really* going on, and Betti's predicament is bound to inspire compassion.
So why is this book getting such a high rating? Because it is simply that good. It's not that it's a wildly made up fantasy about sparkly paranormal creatures or shape changing critters (though I love stories about both and the little girl in this story DOES have quite an imagination). It's not that it's a true story being recounted breath by breath (though it certainly could be and is is some fashion for many out there). It IS in fact the way the story speaks straight to your heart....by passing the mind and thought process that begs you to straighten out mispoken words, or make sense of non-sensible situations. It speaks in a language that we can all understand on some level. It combines the storytelling abilities of young Betti while delivering a truth about her and her life that's inevitable. You see it coming, and yet not as you are held captive by the level of emotions released page by page.
Certainly a story that children can enjoy with it's recounting of circus life, the "lie berry" and "fow tins"...but also a very touching book for the adult reader with whom the real world tragedies may echo even deeper. Happy reading...
Betti on the high wire is a book about a girl named babo who lived in an old circus that was burned down during the war. she is adopted by american parents and taken to America where she has a very hard time getting used to her new home and understanding english and a new lifestyle. i really loved babo and i thought the book was very interesting and enjoyed reading it alot. there were a few things about the book that really annoyed me though. one was that changed her name to betti without even asking. also another thing that bothered me was that they didn't really prepare babo for being adopted..they just said your being adopted, sent her on an airplane and that was it. the people didnt really try to explain things to her like the meaning of new english words, what things like a tv and cellphone were and other things like that so she didn't understand anything going on around her, like thinking tv was a prision and the people on the screen were trapped. idk why but even with all that i really liked the book alot.
Babo, with her "broken" eye and fantastical circus stories , is a "leftover" (orphan) from a war torn country and has only ever known poverty, hunger, and war. When she is unexpectedly adopted by an American "melon" family, she unwillingly must leave behind all she has known to start a new and unfamiliar life in America. Despite her constant efforts to be bad, Babo, now Betti, learns to adapt to her new home and family while realizing she doesn't have to forget her past. A combination of tragedy and comedy, this book enlightens the audience regarding contemporary issues. Betti's voice really comes through in the story, but the author leaves it up to you to decide where Betty is actually from.
This book is about ten year old Babo who lives in a war torn country. Her parents were killed by soldiers when she was three. An American family adopts her and renames her Betti.. She doesn't want to leave her friends and the old woman who raised her. When she arrives in the United States, she is frightened by the many strange devices like the box that locks up people (TV) and has a difficult time understanding the strange idioms Americans use. I liked this book because it points out the vast difference in the world of an American child and a refugee child. It's very funny in parts. I was a bit confused by the stories that Babo told about her parents who were circus performers. The most interesting part of this books is the reader never knows what country Babo comes from.
The main characters are Bettie,George,Maya,Lucy,and the Buckworths. Betti and George are from a circus war town camp and the Buckworths are the adopting parents of Betti and they live with Betti's sister Lucy and the Buckworths birth daughter. The main problem is Betti moving to America.
I thought this book was really good and interesting. The Two Quotes in the story that I liked were"Paint your dreams,Summer Six."Along with "They stood up for themselves;they fought for what they believed in,but they didn't have guns." I recommend this book because it really draws your attention to it and leads your imagination. What type of stories do you like to read because if you like interesting books this is a good one to choose.
Betti On the High Wire by Lisa Railsback is a great book. The author did a great job with developing Betti and making her into a survivor. Lisa Railsback wrote an important theme into the book. Betti is a very loud and creative character who has been through a lot. I think it was very heartbreaking to read that Betti still thinks her parents are coming back for her even after the war. When Betti gets adopted, she didn't think her parents would ever find her. She wasn't adapting to her home easily and lead to her getting homesick. I love how this book is hilarious and also heartbreaking in the same chapters. I recommend Betti On the High Wire for anyone who likes reading realistic fiction books.
I met Lisa, the author, last week. She's a friend of my sister's and that's how I came across this book. She is the sweetest person you can imagine, so maybe my review will be a bit biased? Oh well. I know there's always something a bit unsettling about a white american writing stories about things they could never even dream of living themselves. But despite that I do believe Lisa was capable of capturing it all very well. The book was so sweet; I laughed, I cried (OK, mostly I cried :)), I was so hopeful for Betti/Babo. I loved it :) I loved Betti's conclusions of things, I loved George's happiness, I loved Lucy's innocence and acceptance. I just really loved it. "Bla bla bla the end."