Title: Wonder Show
Author: Hannah Barnaby
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: March, 2012
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.
What I Think: Portia is looking for her family, but ends up finding a place in the least likely places- a "freak show" touring around the midwest during Depression-era America. The author seamlessly intertwines Portia's story with the story of the traveling show even mixing up points of views and narrators during the story. Although it sounds like it should definitely not work, it does. And it does beautifully. This book is mostly about heart, family, and home. Portia's story is so enthralling and her transformation is amazing to be part of.
As I read this book, I found so many different places that could be mentor texts within the classroom. Hannah Barnaby's debut novel is not only a great example of literary, lyrical writing, it is also a novel that would definitely be useful for a reading mentor text. Since the story is so complex, it takes a strong reader to read it thus would be a great book to model comprehension with. As a writing mentor text, there are examples of exemplar writing throughout.
Read Together: Grades 9 and up
Read Alone: Grades 8 and up
Read With: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Snatch of Text: "The truck lurched uncertainly onto the dirt road indicated by the sign and quickly came to a fork - downhill, to the right, Portia saw a cluster of small wood cabins and, behind them, the apple trees. They were different than her apple trees. Hers had grown tall and sat heavy over her like a canopy, even now that she was thirteen. These were dwarfish, twisted, and gray. It was halfway through harvest time, and many of the trees stood bare as skeletons, reaching for the cold sky. Uphill, to the left, was a massive dark house with a sharp, staggered roof that looked like the teeth of some huge, mythical beast. Portia had no desire to get any closer, but Sophia, as usual, had other ideas." (p. 25)
Mentor Text for: Suspense, Predicting, Point of Views, Imagery, Attention Grabber, Vocabulary, Voice, Literary Writing, Setting
Writing Prompts: Don't judge a book by its cover does not only apply to books; it also applies to people. Think of a time when you judged a person by their cover and you were wrong. Connect this with Portia when she first arrived at the Wonder Show.
Topics Covered: Human Curiosities, Family, Loss, Loyalty, Relationships, Identity
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