Jun 21, 2013
In Wonder Show, Hannah Barnaby tells the tale of a young girl's search for family. Portia grows up in a world full of laughter and stories with her family of gypsies, but one by one they leave until she has only her aunt. Her aunt, unable to handle Portia's active imagination, sends her to a boarding home for wayward girls. Desperate to reunite with her father, Portia escapes the evil Mister of the home. She hides with a traveling sideshow, hoping all the while that she will see her father's face in the crowd. There, while outcast as a "normal" amongst the "freaks," Portia finds the true meaning of family and what it means to leave one behind.
The freaks at the sideshow are inspired by real attractions found in the Barnum & Bailey circus and sideshows during the depression era. The description of the family element that they share reminded me of the "peculiars" in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. That got me thinking of bouncing these two books off of each other in a book club and exploring their similar themes.
Wonder Show has a few references to some nude Siamese twin dancing, but because it's not incredibly explicit and Portia's reaction to it is important to her growth, I'd say that this novel would be great for middle school readers and up.