Betti on the High Wire

Betti on the High Wire

4.4 7
by Lisa Railsback
     
 

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Ten-year-old Babo has grown up on an abandoned circus camp in a war-torn country, believing her circus-star parents will come back any day now. So she's none too happy when an American couple adopts her, calls her Betti, and takes her away from her fellow parentless friends, to a very confusing America. Betti misses her old home, and she's worried her real parents

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Overview

Ten-year-old Babo has grown up on an abandoned circus camp in a war-torn country, believing her circus-star parents will come back any day now. So she's none too happy when an American couple adopts her, calls her Betti, and takes her away from her fellow parentless friends, to a very confusing America. Betti misses her old home, and she's worried her real parents will never be able to find her. She's determined to run away, but as she gets to know her new parents, little sister, and even a new friend, Betti starts to feel like maybe she could be happy in her new American home.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this highly original debut, Railsback delivers a poignant comedy rooted in a tragic contemporary reality. Babo--a fierce 10-year-old orphan in an unnamed, war-ravaged country--watches over the younger "leftover kids" in the abandoned circus camp they call home. Her bad "fish eye" and few missing toes make her better off than those with missing limbs or damaged brains; her overactive imagination provides the group with never-ending stories--and earns her the nickname Babo Big Mouth. Relentless at frightening off well-meaning foreigners who come looking for children to adopt, Babo is horrified when the American Buckworths choose her. In spite of her efforts to behave so badly the Buckworths will send her home, Babo, renamed Betti, slowly warms to America and her new family. The Buckworths--except for mischievous daughter Lucy--are a tad too warm and understanding to be completely believable, but Railsback's backstory of Mrs. Buckworth having been orphaned at a young age eases some doubts and helps Babo bond with her. While some of the subject matter can be grisly, Babo's bravado is endearing and her giggle-provoking adventures lighten the story's dark backdrop. Ages 8-12. (July)
Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
Babo has grown up in the abandoned circus. The ten-year-old has taken on the responsibility of caring for the other "leftover kids," all orphaned by the war that has torn their country. But Babo is still waiting for her circus star parents to return. While she waits, she tells fantastic stories. When foreigners come to adopt some of the children, Babo doesn't want to go. America is too big and too different, and how will her parents find her? She and her best friend, George, are chosen by families from the same town and reluctantly begin their journey to a new life on the other side of the world. George takes to his new family and environment, but Babo, now Betti, doesn't want to trust the Americans or lose her connections to her past. Babo is a beautifully developed character. Though she lives in extreme situations and has complex emotions, the first person narrative shows her viewpoint clearly and naturally. The struggles that an immigrant child would face are given a personality. The supporting characters are lovingly drawn and become as likeable as Babo. Though Railsback explains her reasons for not giving a specific home country for the orphans, the lack of a definite setting is confusing in the beginning. Because of the abandoned circus, Babo's incredible stories, and the drastic differences between her life and the world most of us live in, the ungrounded scenes almost feel more like fantasy than reality. But the life she moves to is very real, and this fresh look at the reality too many children face in our world is a valuable read for any child looking for a human perspective in current events. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Precocious and stubborn ten-year-old Babo is one of the "leftover children" living at a destroyed circus camp in an unknown war-torn country in Lisa Railsback's tale (Dial, 2010) about adoption, new beginnings, and the melding of diverse cultures. Auntie Moo has cared for the children since the soldiers burned their camp and left them orphans. Babo's misconception about foreigners leads her to sabotage visits by prospective adopters. To her dismay, the Buckworths, an American couple, think she is smart and pretty, even though she has a "fish eye" and missing toes. She finds it challenging to adapt to American life and her new name, Betti. The child is teased mercilessly at school for her overdramatic stories about her parents' exploits in the circus: her mother was "The Tallest Woman in the World with a Tail" and her father was "Green Alligator Man." Betti hopes that bad behavior will make the Buckworths send her home, but their love and acceptance of her only grows. Gradually, her thoughts of returning home are less immediate. Betti's sometimes humorous misuse of the English language helps lighten the dark background story. Rachel Gray's cool, charming voice helps listeners better understand the mixture of undeveloped and conventional English which can be confusing. She does an outstanding job of bringing a multitude of voices to life. While this title may not have wide appeal, it will be well received by adoptees from other countries and children who are trying to adapt to a new culture.—Caitlyn Walsh, Fayetteville Public Library, AR
Kirkus Reviews
A refugee-adoption tale, minus a real country of origin. Babo lives in a broken-down circus camp in an unnamed war-torn country. Americans visit and adopt her; she goes reluctantly, loath to part with her fellow "leftover kids" and guardian, Auntie Moo, and skeptical that Americans could accept her broken eye and missing digits. Renamed Betti in America, this iron-strong girl fights hard against adapting, because her old circus parents are "the Tallest Woman in the World with a Tail" and "Green Alligator Man," and she plans to run away home. Despite a first-person narration, the text sometimes winks at readers over Betti's misunderstandings (TVs have people trapped inside as punishment) and implies humor or charm about mistakes ("swimming poo," repeatedly, and "toes" for toast). For all her individual word errors, however, her structural comprehension of English defies belief. The story respects Babo/Betti as a unique, wounded, fiercely responsible individual, but the realism stumbles into uneasy allegory with the portrayal of her unidentified, nonwhite, nobly destitute, filthy and ignorant birth country-especially in contrast to benevolent savior America. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-11)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780142418772
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
07/21/2011
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,354,540
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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