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Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus (1880)

by James Otis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Toby Tyler (1)

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393445,989 (3.69)16
Follows the adventures of a young boy who runs away to join the circus and discovers, contrary to his expectations, that circus life is not always carefree and happy.
  1. 00
    Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott (BonnieJune54)
    BonnieJune54: Both books involve children working in a 19th century circus.

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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
Introduction and foreword are incredibly interesting, too. ( )
  IC_School | Apr 28, 2017 |
Toby Tyler has entertained several generations of readers (boys mainly) since its publication in 1880. Many older readers will remember it fondly. As a young orphan, Toby runs away to join the circus and gains a job selling refreshments. The life is harder than he expected; he is treated very cruelly by his boss, and is often very sad. However, he makes friends among the performers (the thin man, the fat lady) and adopts Mr. Stubbs the monkey as his special friend. The book's saccharine message is about the values of love, friendship, and family. One aspect that will startle modern sensibilities is that Toby's master at the circus (Mr. Job Lord ) periodically beats him to keep him obedient. Interestingly, among the various Amazon reviewers are older readers who remember the book fondly and wonder if their grandchildren would like it, and others who think the book dated, if not preachy.

I only mildly enjoyed revisiting this work, after a hiatus of many years. I cannot imagine that 10 year old boys dream of joining the circus anymore, but I suppose that a very avid reader of that age might gain some enjoyment from reading about a 19th century boy who did. ( )
2 vote danielx | Aug 25, 2013 |
Toby Tyler; or, Ten Weeks in a Circus was first published in Harper's Young Peopleas a serial in 1877, and then as a book in 1881. It was an immediate classic and favorite among young boys and girls who dreamed of running off with the circus. It was very popular and sold so well that a few years later Mark Twain wrote his own story of a run-away conscious-stricken orphan who joins the circus: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). The central theme of the novel is doing what you know is right versus doing what comes naturally and following your instincts, as shown by the character Mr. Stubbs the monkey. Although written to be a "wholesome" children's novel of what happens to bad boys, most remember it for the romantic story of running off with the circus. Indeed, by the end Toby has become so successful in the circus, his reason for returning home stretches credibility (probably to the secret delight of younger readers who knew what they would have done in Toby's shoes: stayed with the circus!). The novel was influential for at least 3 generations, a young Carl Sandburg thought it his favorite novel and William S. Burroughs mentions it in his memoirs. Disney paid it homage in a 1960 movie adaption. Since then it has become increasingly obscure, but it's close similarities with Huckleberry Finn should give it a wider audience as a comparison novel. The original included 30 pen and ink drawings by W. A. Rogers (1854-1931) which are essential.

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--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd ( )
  Stbalbach | May 26, 2008 |
I read this when I was very young - grade 5? I loved it. I recently found an old copy of it and will reread it soon or read it to my daughters. Nothing like the Walt Disney version. ( )
  dimestorenovel | Apr 9, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Otisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Weisgard, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Couldn't you give more 'n six peanuts for a cent?"
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