Long Road to the Circus

Betsy Bird, illus. by David Small. Knopf, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-30393-1
In this spirited historical adventure set in 1920, tenacious 12-year-old narrator Suzy Bowles longs for a life beyond her farm in small-town Burr Oak, Mich., and finds purpose under the tutelage of a former circus queen. Using a colloquial first-person narration, Bird (The Great Santa Stakeout) effectively portrays Suzy’s longing for a larger life, and her curiosity as she follows her recently returned, purportedly “deadbeat” uncle Fred to his secret job with the nearby Madame Marantette, a former circus performer who is attempting to train her ostrich Gaucho to pull a carriage alongside a horse. Tension and comedy escalate as Suzy volunteers to ride cantankerous Gaucho, and Madame invites Suzy to weekly teas for lessons in comportment. Caldecott Medalist Small’s expressive, humorous b&w illustrations infuse the narrative with further personality. Most characters cue as white, and an author's note chronicles the life of the actual Madame Marantette who inspired the novel. Ages 10–up. Author’s agent: Stephen Barbara, InkWell Management. Illustrator’s agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Oct.)

Correction: The text of this review has been updated for factual accuracy.

Reviewed on : 08/26/2021
Release date: 10/05/2021
Genre: Children's
Library Binding - 256 pages - 978-0-593-30398-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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