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Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
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Wonder Show

by Hannah Barnaby

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1711969,515 (3.72)9

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
I'm not really sure how to rate this one. I liked its historical elements, but found the magical realism unnerving and out of place. It read a bit like two separate books smashed into one. ( )
  EmilyRokicki | Feb 26, 2016 |
Originally posted on ,a href="http://brokeandbookish.blogspot.com/2013/05/tahleen-reviews-wonder-show-by-hannah.html">The Broke and the Bookish.

This was one of the contenders for the Morris Award this year, given to the best debut young adult title (first book to be published by the author in any genre and for any audience). While I can see its merits, I can also understand why it didn't take the main prize.

Wonder Show follows the story of Portia Remini, who has been abandoned by her family and left at McGreavy's Home for Wayward Girls, under the "care" of someone everyone just calls "Mister." It's terrible there, but Portia has learned how to get from day to day, all while hoping to find her file and information about where her father might be. Until something so terrible happens that she knows she needs to get out.

This is how she eventually finds her way to Mosco's Traveling Wonder Show, a sideshow for circuses where "human oddities" are the main attraction. Portia is a "normal," someone who is useless for the show, but eventually finds herself as the apprentice for the ballyhoo, the storyteller that brings in the customers. As she learns to live and work with her new companions, she continues to look for her father, and wonders how long it will take Mister to finally catch up with her.

The way this story is told is not one I typically see in YA literature, but it was very effective. The chapters alternate viewpoints between third-person omniscient and first-person narration for each member of the Wonder Show. Almost every member of the Wonder Show gets a short chapter where they explain how they see the events and the world in general, and their views are not always what a reader might expect them to be. It was illuminating without giving too much of the story away; it was just enough to make us understand their world and their desires a little better.

Readers will also learn a lot about the American history of these sideshows, as well. In the end, the author's note talks about all the real people Barnaby based her characters on, including a pair of conjoined twins, a human pincushion, and giants. It is a fascinating world, one that is usually less than ideal for the so-called "freaks" who managed to make a living not only despite, but because of their physical differences during the Great Depression.

Despite its many merits, I'm not surprised this didn't win the Morris Award, only because it seemed like not enough to me. I wanted to know more about the characters, wanted to go deeper into their lives and further into their story. I also agree with the committee that Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, the winner, was indeed better.

I would definitely recommend this novel to readers who are looking for a darker, grittier realistic or historical fiction novel but isn't too graphic. I was often reminded of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen while reading this, so I would also recommend this to people who enjoyed that book. It's a lighter story than that one, but delves into the dark life of the traveling circus during its heyday. ( )
  Tahleen | Feb 16, 2014 |
Ever since Portia's father left her to pursue his fortune, Portia has counted the days until he'd come back for her and they'd be a family again. That doesn't change when Sophia deposits Portia at a home for wayward girls, where Portia is convinced that the proprietor has information about her father. After a tragic event, Portia knows that she must seek her father out. Knowing that he loved the circus, Portia finds a carnival that travels with a circus and gets a job, positive that her father will come through the turnstyle in one of the little towns they visit.

This was a story that was a little slow to start, but it definitely picked up in the second part and by the end of it I really felt like I had gotten to know the carnival oddities and cared about what happened to them. It pays off to stick with it, is what I'm saying. I thought the writing was atmospheric and darkly beautiful. Chapters are short, almost like vignettes, and the story's told in the 3rd person from Portia's point of view, but every now and then you get a snippet from someone else's point of view or from Portia in the first person. Again, it took me a little bit to get used to the style, but once I did I really liked it.

I think this would make a great crossover title for adults interested in picking up YA titles. The titles that most came to mind as I read were WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen and GEEK LOVE by Katherine Dunn, both adult titles. OH, but I also think the atmospheric writing makes this a great readalike for THE BONESHAKER by Kate Milford. ( )
  abbylibrarian | Apr 26, 2013 |
This is set in the late 30s, during the waning days of the traveling circus/sideshows. Portia had grown up on a farm, certainly not rich, but surrounded by family. As times get tough, family starts moving away. Eventually it's just Portia, her aunt and father. Then her father drives off one day. Portia's a bit much for her aunt to handle, so the aunt sends her off to a school for wayward girls. Once there, Portia discovers that it's not really the place it was portrayed as. The person in charge, "Mister" is scary, and doesn't behave appropriately toward the young women left in his charge. When a travelling circus goes by, Portia decides that her long gone father may be at one and hopes to eventually find him. When her best friend dies via poisoning, Portia blames herself and runs off to the circus. They take her in and she becomes part of the crew, but she's always in fear of "Mister" finding her. He finally locates her and she's taken back to the home. But her circus family eventually comes to her aid and makes sure that she'll always be safe. ( )
  TheMadHatters | Apr 10, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
For the lost and the lonely, for the different and the same.
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Wayward can mean a lot of things.
Quotations
Stories came easily to Portia. Lies came even more easily and more often. The difference was in the purpose. The stories taught her to imagine places beyond where she was, and the lies kept her out of trouble. Mostly.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547599803, Hardcover)

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a
menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze!
But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among
the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister
watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave.
Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s
disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and
like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:29 -0400)

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco's Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco's display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy's Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father's disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It's a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same"-- "A striking historical fiction YA debut about a wayward girl amid the freaks and sideshows of a late 1930s traveling circus"--… (more)

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