Wonder Show

Written by Hannah Barnaby
Review by Jessica Brockmole

As if things aren’t bad enough for a family of gypsies in the midst of the Dust Bowl, Portia Remini’s father takes off in search of work, leaving her behind with straight-laced Aunt Sophia. And they only get worse when Aunt Sophia, in exasperation, drops the headstrong, imaginative girl off at the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls, presided over by the creepy Mister. Impatient, missing her father, and more than a little unnerved by some of the mysterious happenings at the McGreavey Home, Portia liberates both herself and Mister’s red bicycle one night and rides off to follow the circus. She gets a job on the ballyhoo, weaving stories for the human curiosities on display in Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, all while keeping an eye out for the vengeful Mister, looking to retrieve both his bicycle and his errant charge. As she gets to know each, from The Bearded Lady to The Armless Girl, she begins to see that they’re not freaks but, in some ways, more normal than she is.

Darker than the folksy blurb gives it credit for, Wonder Show is a fast-paced read populated by a colorful cast of characters. Each of Mosco’s human curiosities gets a chapter to tell his or her own story. Through their eyes, you see how plucky Portia integrates herself into the show until she’s as much a member of the Wonder Show’s strange “family” as the freaks themselves. Suitable for 12+.