This has been called David Almond’s most confusing book. While I loved Kit’s Wilderness and Clay, this one left me unsatisfied.
Joe Maloney is a different sort of kid. He doesn’t fit in. He’s a dreamer who can’t concentrate in school and doesn’t make friends easily. Joe’s mother recognizes some of his uniqueness and his sensitive ways but as a single parent, is largely unable to guide her son. When an all but defunct circus comes to town, Joe is called into the night by a mysterious tiger. Eventually he befriends many of the circus performers and gets caught up in the dream-like tale of the circus closing down. Questions of man’s relationship to nature, reincarnation, and the line between reality and illusion abound.
There is some beautiful imagery and prose here. Almond’s book is a challenging read for the middle grade or young adult audience. And just like in life, there is no easy, nicely-tied up ending. This is a good book to pick up when you think books for children are all alike. It may also shake a few adults out of their stupor.