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Earthly Astonishments

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Meet Rosa, the Bearded Lady! Charley, the Albino Boy! See them all for yourself at R. J. Walters' Museum of Earthly Astonishments!

In 1883, there is no better place in the world to see exotic attractions than Coney Island, New York. Josephine lives in a little dot of a town called Westley. But her parents still can charge a penny to any visitor who wants to gawk at her. They also can sell her for an even better price to the MacLaren Academy for Girls, where Josephine scrubs and ...

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Overview

Meet Rosa, the Bearded Lady! Charley, the Albino Boy! See them all for yourself at R. J. Walters' Museum of Earthly Astonishments!

In 1883, there is no better place in the world to see exotic attractions than Coney Island, New York. Josephine lives in a little dot of a town called Westley. But her parents still can charge a penny to any visitor who wants to gawk at her. They also can sell her for an even better price to the MacLaren Academy for Girls, where Josephine scrubs and fetches and withstands mocking torment from the fine young ladies of the school.

One day Josephine takes four gold dollars from the schoolmistress and runs away. But she trades her freedom to belong to the famous R. J. Walters' "Natural Curiosity" show on the Coney Island boardwalk. He gives her a new name and a new identity--Little JoJo of Bohemia--but the crowds and the newspaper articles can't satisfy the hunger she has for a real family and a real home. In this beautifully evoked, wonderfully readable adventure story, an incredibly versatile writer creates a marvelously believable heroine from a time and place filled with many wonders.

Publishers Weekly hailed Marthe Jocelyn's first book, The Invisible Day, a "surefire crowd-pleaser" in a starred review. She is also the author of The Invisible Harry and wrote and illustrated Hannah and the Seven Dresses

In 1884, after being sold as a servant by her parents to a harsh school mistress, tiny twelve-year-old Josephine, who stands less than twenty-nine inches tall, finds refuge in the Museum of Earthly Astonishments in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jocelyn (The Invisible Day) ventures into historical fiction for this often vivid but incompletely realized novel set in 1884 New York City. Twelve-year-old Josephine measures only 28U" tall, but she has outsize adventures. For the past five years, she has slaved away at Miss McLaren's academy for girls, an establishment that recalls Miss Minchin's from A Little Princess for its cruelty and hypocrisy. Exploited past endurance, Josephine runs away. Immediately she meets one R.J. Walters, the owner of The Museum of Earthly Astonishments, which displays "curiosities," human and otherwise. Billed as Little Jo-Jo, the world's smallest girl, Josephine becomes a star attraction among the Coney Island amusement-seekers, and she also becomes friends with another of Mr. Walters's "astonishments," a 14-year-old albino boy. But evil Miss McLaren is not so easily left behind, and the plot becomes a tangle of melodramatic sequences in which Miss McLaren attempts at all costs to get Josephine back in her clutches. The characters are colorful but one-dimensional; Josephine, for example, seems less an individual than a contemporary heroine assigned a period setting and a midget's body, and even her extraordinary stature is not entirely reflected in her perceptions and personality. The abundance of historical details demonstrates that the author has researched her subject, yet the characters themselves do not seem lifelike. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
Josephine is a midget, perfectly proportioned but only 27 inches tall. Her mother is ashamed of her and her father treats her like a freak. When she is twelve, they sell her to girls' school where she is continually beaten and overworked. But with spunk and determination, Josephine runs away and becomes the star attraction in Mr. Walter's Museum of Earthly Astonishments. Her trials are not over, however, because Ms. MacLaren, headmistress of the girls' school, finds out where she is and sends the police to apprehend her for stealing money. Josephine returns the money and the police drop the charges, but Ms. MacLaren wants to sell her to the highest bidder. She kidnaps Josephine, throws her into a bag, and carries her onto the ferry. Josephine escapes by jumping off the boat and almost drowns in the process. Although the good and evil plot is a bit contrived and the characters are very black or white, girls, in particular, should love Josephine¾a tough, resilient girl competent to make her own decisions and get out of one predicament after another. It wouldn't be surprising to see more Josephine books published. 2000, Dutton Children's Books, $15.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Janet L. Rose
From the Publisher
“The protagonist is a compelling and sympathetic character with whom children will identify. The occasional use of letters, newspaper articles, and a billboard ad creates a feel for New York in the 1880s. However, the real story here is that while family isn’t always found where it should be, it’s okay to make one’s own.”
School Library Journal

“…a snappy pace, an exciting plot and flavourful dialogue that’s fun to read…With verve, wisdom and honesty, Jocelyn explores the realities of human curiosity, friendship and life with a physical trait that will always have to be accommodated.”
The Toronto Star

Earthly Astonishments is…original and literary…[with] strong characters and [an] unbeatable story…a sure bet.”
New Brunswick Telegraph Journal

“Tundra seems to be doing an excellent job of making the past come alive for young readers in an intriguing way. This volume is simply a lovely book…From cover to cover, this is a book which I highly recommend.”
St. Catharines Standard

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525462637
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/1900
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Marthe Jocelyn is a talented and versatile author and artist. She has written two novels for middle readers, The Invisible Day and The Invisible Harry, and a novel for young adults, Earthly Astonishments. She also wrote and illustrated two stories about Hannah, Hannah and the Seven Dresses and Hannahs Collection. Marthe Jocelyn and her family divide their time between New York City and Stratford, Ontario.

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