BETTI ON THE HIGH WIRE by Lisa Railsback


Age Range: 9 - 11
Email this review


A refugee-adoption tale, minus a real country of origin. Babo lives in a broken-down circus camp in an unnamed war-torn country. Americans visit and adopt her; she goes reluctantly, loath to part with her fellow “leftover kids” and guardian, Auntie Moo, and skeptical that Americans could accept her broken eye and missing digits. Renamed Betti in America, this iron-strong girl fights hard against adapting, because her old circus parents are “the Tallest Woman in the World with a Tail” and “Green Alligator Man,” and she plans to run away home. Despite a first-person narration, the text sometimes winks at readers over Betti’s misunderstandings (TVs have people trapped inside as punishment) and implies humor or charm about mistakes (“swimming poo,” repeatedly, and “toes” for toast). For all her individual word errors, however, her structural comprehension of English defies belief. The story respects Babo/Betti as a unique, wounded, fiercely responsible individual, but the realism stumbles into uneasy allegory with the portrayal of her unidentified, nonwhite, nobly destitute, filthy and ignorant birth country—especially in contrast to benevolent savior America. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3388-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2010