Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights

Harper/HarperCollins/. Jul. 2019. 416p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062643346.
Gr 3 Up–Consider a time when most people did not travel beyond the place where they were born. No television and internet meant that they would know little of the larger world. Picturing that existence makes it easier to understand why the arrival of a traveling show could cause such excitement. A giant? A dwarf riding an elephant? A trained bear and chimp? Platt takes readers into this earlier time, making it real enough to smell the hay and peanuts. Babe, close to seven feet tall at age 14, and tiny Lotty, about the size of a yardstick, make an odd pair. Known as “carnies” to some, freaks to others, the show performers walk a fine line between entertainment and exploitation, while townspeople meet them with equal parts fascination and fear. When “Professor” Renoir decides he cannot afford to feed Lotty’s elephant or the animals Babe loves, the girls come up with a plan to free all five of them from his control. The story is divided thematically into three sections: Babe’s home and the beginning of her time with Renoir; life with the traveling circus; and the search for a home and family. Babe’s physical size magnifies the problems that all people face in looking for understanding and acceptance, and there are no easy answers for her.
VERDICT The book is well-named, as it is full of vivid characters and settings that are odd, curious, but full of delights

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