WHEN THE CIRCUS CAME TO TOWN by Laurence Yep

WHEN THE CIRCUS CAME TO TOWN

by & illustrated by
Age Range: 8 - 10
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A story taken from real life provides the foundation for a tale of healing through human interconnection. Ursula is a ten-year-old girl with a big imagination and a love for her small Montana town, finding enough happy magic at home by leading her pirate crew in fanciful adventures in between helping her Pa at his stagecoach station. But when she survives a smallpox scare only to be left with a pitted face, vanity replaces her ebullient spirit and she won’t leave her room. Pa hires Ah Sam, a Chinese cook, to help feed the passengers when the stages arrive. Her “curiosity bump” is larger than her prejudice against him, and the two soon find they share a common loneliness as well as a common love of the circus. She begins once again to help in the kitchen, although she still won’t show her face outdoors. She faces a turning point, however, when a mean-spirited stage passenger harasses Ah Sam, who cannot retaliate because of state law. Ursula decides she must cheer up the now ashamed cook, realizing that they all share what Indian Tom calls “the mark” of outsiders. One kindness leads to another as Ah Sam’s circus relatives arrive to entertain the town with their special magic while Ursula is enlisted to back them up with music. Yep (Newbery Honor, Dragon’s Gate, 1994), has applied his considerable skills to embellish a true story into a moving parable of how people help each other overcome suffering. The simple plot uses perfectly believable characterizations to discuss deceptively complex emotions and issues for those who would mine its lessons, but Ursula’s own story of healing is rewarding enough for those who read from the younger child’s point of view. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-029325-X
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2001




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