Babo is a child of the circus. With stars in her eyes and her steadily walking the high wire, she has hope in a time of hopelessness. You see, she lives in a place with other "leftover" kids amid the burned remains of a circus that was and a war that still is. The BOOM BOOM BOOM of bombs and shots nearby are nothing new to those living in this war torn country; the recent visits from the Melons are though. The Melons promise to help...bring peace to their country, safety to their numbers, none of which has been seen to date, so when their visits grow in frequency, it is certainly cause for alarm....or so Babo believes. After their visits, their numbers always begin to wane as they loose one child or another to "Amer-eeka" and the Melons. This visit....Babo has caught one couple's interest. Babo has no interest in changing her name to Betti or leaving her makeshift family and friends; after all when her parents return, how will they find her? The next step she takes will change her world in more ways than one...forever....
A wonderful story from start to finish, filled with imagination, hard earned life experience, and hope, it's hard not to fall into step with young Betti. With vivid detail even in a broken language, you get a view of the world through young eyes that have seen much in a short time. Speaking of short, the chapters are set up for easy reading (short and sweet), but the over length allows it to be finished in an afternoon, thus facilitating those readers that simply can't bear to part with her story.
So why is this book getting such a high rating (not number wise on here, but high praises)? Because it is simply that good. It's not that it's a wildly made up fantasy about sparkly paranormal creatures (YAY, Twilight!) or shape changing critters...though I love stories about both and the little girl in this story DOES have quite an imagination, after all she is born of the circus, is she not? Her mother being the tallest woman in the world with a tail, and her father the green alligator man. It's not that it's a true story being recounted breath by breath...though it certainly could be and is in some fashion for many out there, sad as that may be.
You can't help but feel for her as she struggles to come to grips with all the new-ness around her while coming to an understanding about the past. The fact that one of her friends (George) from the circus camp ends up being adopted by someone in her neighborhood certainly helps her in the beginning (so she has someone that understands her and where she comes from...truly), but adds to her frustrations as he seems to be falling into his new life gracefully while she flounders. The turmoil Betti experiences trying to stay true to her "circus" self while carefully avoiding enjoyment of new activities, friends, and family...though this last one sneaks up on her....is enough to make you want to reach through the pages and give her a hug.
Certainly a story that children can enjoy with it's recounting of circus life, the "lie berry" and "fow tins" (just a few of the fun new words Betti learns)...but also a very touching book for the adult reader with whom the real world tragedies may echo even deeper. It's not often you get a healthy dose of reality in a fiction novel that still leaves you with smile on your face and dreams of a better tomorrow.
ARC for review courtesy of author Lisa Railsback and Dial Books for Young Readers, and imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc. (THANKS!) For more information in the author's current works, check out her website. To find out more about this title and the other treasures in their current catalog, visit the publisher's site, or follow along on Twitter.
Until next time....happy reading!