Long Road to the Circus – book review

Long Road to the Circus
by Betsy Bird
Historical Fiction
Tween/Grades 4-8
* * * Stars (Pretty good)

12-year-old Suzy Bowles wants to see the world, but she’s stuck on a farm in a small town in Michigan where no one ever seems to leave (or even wants to). When her uncle and his family come to live with them, she makes it her business to find out where he disappears to every morning before the sun comes up and discovers that he’s secretly working for the famous (actually, infamous) Madame Marantette, a local celebrity/retired circus performer, as an ostrich trainer. Madame wants to hitch her ostrich Gaucho alongside her horse, Bonnie Anne and drive them together as a team in the town’s parade, but so far Gaucho isn’t having it. Suzy’s special talent is tenacity, so she’s the perfect candidate for riding Gaucho before his driving lessons. After being dumped in the dirt a bunch of times, she finally works out a system for mounting and staying on. Madame is delighted and offers Suzy lessons on comportment to compensate her for her efforts. These lessons put Suzy in the ideal place to ask the one burning question that’s in her heart – “How did YOU do it?” She’s sure Madame can show her how to make her dreams come true, but she’s going to have to show her family and the rest of the town just how serious she is. Suzy’s story is fictional, but Madame Marantette (Emma Peek) was a real circus performer who did actually train her ostrich to drive! You may not want to ride an ostrich after this, but you will celebrate Suzy’s achievements.

Reviewed by YA Librarian

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