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What do a strong man/giant, a woman with trick rats, an assassin, a monkey boy and a wolf girl all have in common? They are part of a Victorian era freak show. Before the times of political correctness, people looking for cheap entertainment would spend a penny or two and visit these side shows to stare at two headed lambs and people with unfortunate appearances.
Till is a mudlark a little kid who, due to her dire circumstances, looks for tossed away junk in the Thames. Items she and her family can sell to traders in order to keep body and soul together. One night needing a bit of relief and entertainment she sneaks into show, Plumpscuttle’s Peculiars, where she meets Sheba.
Sheba is a wolf girl, with very few good memories, no idea where she came from or who her parents are. Sheba has always been a side show freak, which doesn’t bother her very much, thing could be a whole lot worse. When Till meets Sheba they find the beginning of a friendship between them.
A day or two later there is a knock on the gate of the Peculiars’ house; it is Till’s parents. Till has disappeared without a trace while she was picking in the mud and they are beside themselves with worry. The police won’t help them, they are to poor and low class for the authorities to take notice of their problem. So they come to Plumscuttle’s Peculiars and ask them for help finding Till, and the other missing children.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a great historical middle book, that never tries to cram extraneous knowledge into the book. The author did a great job in making the Victorian era slums come alive with the vocabulary, people and smells. While the author is dealing with characters who are part of a side show, he does a wonderful job in making them human and accessible. Weaving messages, camouflaging lessons and showing ideas without beating the reader over the head about accepting people for who they are and not judging them by their cover, or appearance.
The mystery is fast-paced and engaging, never a dull moment. You root for Sheba and the Peculiars on in trying to find Till and the other missing children before it is to late. I would recommend it for girls (or open minded boys, since Monkeyboy is a fantastic character for them, full of well gross boy humor) 9-12. The other great thing the author does, is the last chpter goes over the history he uses in the book, side shows and their employees, Victoria era London, The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851 the poor and much more!
I highly recommend this book!— Amber
Weirdest. Crime Fighters. Ever.
Sheba, the fur-faced Wolfgirl, can sniff out a threat from miles away. Monkeyboy clambers up buildings in the blink of an eye -- then drops deadly stink bombs of his own making (yes, THAT kind)! Sister Moon sees in the dark, and moves at the speed of light. Born with weird abnormalities that make them misfits, these FREAKS spend their nights on public display, trapped in a traveling Victorian sideshow. But during the day, they put their strange talents to use: They solve the most sinister crimes. And in a dank, desperate world of crooks and child-snatchers, they're determined to defend London's most innocent victims: the street urchins disappearing from the city's streets.
About the Author
Kieran Larwood is a kindergarten teacher on the Isle of Wight, where he lives with his wife and children. FREAKS, his debut novel, is the winner of the fourth annual Chicken House/LONDON TIMES Children's Fiction Competition. Visit him at www.kmlarwood.com and follow him on Twitter @kmlarwood.
Praise for FREAKS
"Thrilling, original, full of zest and wit." -- THE LONDON TIMES