WHEN THE CIRCUS CAME TO TOWN

Laurence Yep, Author, Suling Wang, Illustrator , illus. by Suling Wang. HarperCollins $14.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-06-029325-3

Yep leaves his oft-visited literary stomping grounds of San Francisco's Chinatown in this heartwarming historical tale based on real events. Ursula loves living in tiny Whistle, Mont., or what her Pa calls the Back of Beyond. She helps her parents run the stagecoach station, roams the wild hills and, after reading a penny dreadful that a stagecoach passenger leaves behind, invents a rollicking pirate adventure game with her friends. But everything changes after smallpox leaves her face deeply scarred. She retreats to her room: "Pirate Ursula was dead now. There was only Monster Ursula, and Monster Ursula did not go outside." When her parents hire a Chinese cook, he and Ursula find they share a sense of isolation, and gradually they become friends. Eventually, Ah Sam succeeds in coaxing Ursula out of her self-imposed exile when he invites his cousins to stage a circus. Ursula returns the favor: after a blizzard scuttles Ah Sam's plans to spend Chinese New Year in San Francisco, she rallies the whole town to plan an elaborate celebration of that holiday. Bolstered by themes of compassion, community and tolerance, this story is among Yep's most assured. With dry humor and a keen ear for dialogue, the author includes deft characterizations and offers a window onto Asian-American history and culture. Wang, who illustrated Yep's The Magic Paintbrush, contributes detailed b&w drawings that underscore the volume's more serious themes. Ages 8-10. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 128 pages - 978-0-06-029326-0
Prebound-Sewn - 128 pages - 978-0-613-86716-0
Paperback - 113 pages - 978-0-06-440965-0
Prebound-Sewn - 112 pages - 978-0-7569-2969-5
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-29705-9
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