A boy attends circus school to learn enough to save his family’s circus.
Twelve-year-old Sebastian Kostantinov, only son of ringmaster Dragan Kostantinov, seemingly has no circus talent at all—he can’t juggle, ride unicycles, do acrobatics, or swing on a trapeze. He can’t even manage to be a clown. He cares for the circus animals while they tour Eastern Europe until business falls off and the animals must be sold. Animals are old-school; newer circuses don’t have them. Despite his lack of talent, Seb worms his way into an exclusive Montreal circus school in hopes that he can learn enough to put the family back in the black. He makes friends with two other misfits, Frankie, an Italian parkour specialist, and Banjo, a rustic slackliner. But the circus school itself is in financial straits and seems likely to close—so Seb and his friends plot to save it. Delaney writes smoothly, but her plot has some gaping holes. If the prestigious school carries a waitlist, why not admit more pupils who can pay full tuition? Instead they admit Seb on full scholarship with the odd hope that his presumably wealthy father will become a big donor. The boarding school scenes tread very familiar ground, and the circus acts never quite come alive. The principal cast appears to be white, and the school is not a notably diverse one.
It’s a fine friendship story but not a great one. (Fiction. 8-12)