cover image The Greatest Show Off Earth

The Greatest Show Off Earth

Margaret Mahy. Viking Children's Books, $13.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85736-4

Delphinium is a bored 10-year-old girl on the Space Station Vulnik, where all fun is forbidden lest the residents attract the dreaded Acropola, a group of galaxy-roaming entities that suck up amusement wherever they go. Delphinium and her librarian friend Jason Jones go zipping around the galaxy quite a bit themselves, launching themselves into hyperspace to visit the Wondershow, an defunct traveling space circus that they manage to revive for a series of performances. While taking in the show, they're attacked by a gang of pirates led by the fearsome La Mollerina, Delphinium's former maid on the space station. While Mahy's flights of fancy remain inventive throughout, the flights of her characters occur far too frequently, and all the mad rushing about seems underexplained. The scattershot results don't measure up to the standards of top-shelf Mahy (The Changeover; The Haunting), and longtime readers may be uncomfortably aware of the disparities between this book and its predecessors. Age 8-12. (Oct.)