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Thursday, September 23, 2010

High Hopes: Betti On the High Wire by Lisa Railsback

Hello again!
Hope your week is treating you well...if not, Friday is just over the horizon.  See it?  Right there!  That little speck that keeps getting brighter and brighter.  ^_^  For a little dose of added fun to your day, don't forget to check out the contest listings in the sidebars!  Right side has current ones right here on the site...and on the left side we have a selection of a few around the blogosphere.  Moving on...

Yesterday's post featured a book that showed us that even in times of darkness, there are sources of unexpected light.  Today's post, along the same lines but in the genre of Children's Fiction and dressed with a story not to be missed.  It came to my attention back in July when the Got Books? Event was in full swing.  I had read another book by the author (Noonie's Masterpiece) and having enjoyed it thoroughly was asked if I was interested in this new publication.  A brief research trip around the web later and I was in.  The only thing I didn't a heavier a topic was actually at the root of the book; a good yet unexpected surprise.  Without further adieu, today's book of choice is....


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.

The reason it in the way the story speaks straight to your heart....bypassing the mind and thought process that begs you to straighten out misspoken words (Betti has to learn English, there's a learning curve...and yet her reasoning in the mean time about things ranges from funny to logical), or make sense of non-sensible situations (Betti's stories both old and new all have a kernel of truth....extracting it is the adventure). It speaks in a language that we can all understand on some level. It combines the storytelling abilities of young Betti (which are certainly wonderful if scary true at times) while delivering a truth about her and her life that's inevitable. You see it coming...that realization that dawns in her young mind...and yet not as you are held captive by the level of emotions released page by page. 

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 enough to make you want to reach through the pages and give her a hug.

***POTENTIALLY SPOILERISH*** (It won't ruin the story for you, but in case you don't want to know about a little extra note about the way Betti's story is laid out, avoid this paragraph.)***  Another aspect of the book certainly worth a mention is the lack of location.  As you are reading, you're bound to look back time and again to try and recollect the country she is from.  Try as you may, you won't find one (believe me, I looked!).  This was actually something done entirely according to plan (and executed quite well, if I may add) on the part of the author.  The reason behind it is listed in an author's note section at the end of the story.  According to the piece, she didn't want to bring a spotlight to one area or another with this story...rather, ALL those suffering in places ravaged by war.  It leaves the story as something that can be related to by readers worldwide in times of war and times of peace. ***POTENTIAL SPOILER OVER***

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!


Felicity Grace Terry said...

Niece #2 has this on her birthday list - I think it's a book I'd also enjoy despite not liking the cover very much. Thanks for giving me a little more information about it.

April said...

Wow! What an incredible post!! This sounds like an amazing read and I am putting it on my list now!

Tales of Whimsy said...

A book that speaks to the heart? Great recommendation :)

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