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The Palace of Laughter

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The first installment of The Wednesday Tales series finds 10-year-old Miles befriending Little, an angel held captive by a circus. "Berkeley weaves painterly details into his depiction of this night-shaded Big Top world, where danger can be imagined around every corner. But he also injects an ample measure of humor to keep the darkness at bay," wrote PW. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Gr 4-7-When the mysterious Circus Oscuro arrives in the dead of night, Miles Wednesday, a runaway orphan living in a barrel, is the only person in the town of Larde to witness the event. Later that same night, he is approached by a tiger who claims he can "smell the circus" in Miles. Thus begins a chain of events that introduces the boy to a winged waif named Little, a captive of the circus's sinister ringmaster. Upon Little's escape, the two set out to rescue her friend from the Palace of Laughter, which seems to be far more dangerous and horrible than the name implies. Berkeley's first foray into writing is mostly successful; the story is filled with captivating and ingenious descriptive passages. While the author's habit of introducing Miles at the beginning of nearly every chapter (with definitions such as "clean-shirted and cat-surrounded" and "dawn-chilled and hungry") does tend to get stale, the lively plot and colorful supporting cast are enough to hold readers' attention. Try displaying this book alongside classic whimsical tales such as Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth (Knopf, 1961) or the work of Roald Dahl to create interest.-Christi Voth, Parker Library, CO Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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