The Man Who Loved Clowns

The Man Who Loved Clowns

4.7 60
by June Rae Wood

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Delrita likes being invisible. If no one notices her, then no one willnotice her uncle Punky either. Punky is a grown man with a child's mind. Delrita loves him dearly and can't stand people making fun of his Down's syndrome. But when tragedy strikes, Delrita's quiet life—and Punky's—are disrupted forever. Can she finally learn to trust others, for her own


Delrita likes being invisible. If no one notices her, then no one willnotice her uncle Punky either. Punky is a grown man with a child's mind. Delrita loves him dearly and can't stand people making fun of his Down's syndrome. But when tragedy strikes, Delrita's quiet life—and Punky's—are disrupted forever. Can she finally learn to trust others, for her own sake and Punky's? This story captures the joy and sorrow that come when we open our hearts to love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this potent debut, Wood displays a prodigious writing and storytelling talent. Delrita, 13, has recently moved to a small Missouri town with her parents and Punky, an uncle who has Down's syndrome. Delrita adores Punky, yet is also embarrassed by him. She easily accepts his childish ways at home, but avoids having visitors, and attending church in her new community causes the girl considerable anguish. Always a loner, Punky is befriended by the persistent Avanelle Shackleford (``a name that was almost bigger than she was''), a classmate who also has familial shame--and a fabulous older brother. When disaster tears Delrita's life apart, her new friends' support fortifies her as does Punky's enduring love. The skillfully crafted work, based on the author's memory of a brother who had Down's syndrome, is enriched by humorous touches and Delrita's involving, simply told narrative. This close-up view of a prevalent disease is more than a one-note novel: the author also artfully interweaves issues of loneliness, first romance and parental death. Both Delrita and Punky are complex, realistically drawn characters worthy of attention and admiration. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Delrita's uncle Punky has Down's Syndrome, so even though he is 35 years old, he loves clowns and swings and singing into a pretend microphone. Delrita loves her uncle, who lives with her family, but is also ashamed of him because other kids make fun of him. She decides at her new school not to make any friends at all. But when her parents die in a freak accident, her need for friendship grows too strong and she discovers that not everyone is repulsed by Punky. This poignant novel effectively shows Delrita's struggles with herself, as well as vividly portraying the character of Punky-his thoughts, his mannerisms, his needs. It also provides an education about handicapped people in general, when Punky joins a sheltered workshop (against Delrita's wishes-she wants to protect him from the outside world) and is proud to make friends and earn a paycheck. Based on the author's own brother, who had Down's Syndrome, this is a realistic novel that allows readers to identify with a mentally handicapped person and his family. 1995 (orig.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-- Delrita Jensen, 13, has no friends, and she prefers it that way. She doesn't want anyone to meet her uncle, ``Punky'' Holloway, who has Down syndrome and lives with her family. Although she loves him dearly, she can't help being ashamed of him. Then, when her parents are killed in a traffic accident, and she and Punky must go to live with her aunt and uncle, everything changes. In the months that follow, Delrita learns many things: that others can come to love Punky and be proud of him, that she might have misjudged her aunt, and most of all, that she wants friends. Wood has created a realistic portrait of the problems that confront a child growing up in a family with a disabled member. But more than that, she has created an engrossing story with characters that readers come to care about very deeply. It's a story with a universal theme--the struggle to come of age and find a place in the world--and because of this, it will bring pleasure to many readers. Also incorporated are the joy of discovering and exercising a talent, the warmth that can come from finding a friend, the excitement and uncertainty of a first romance, and the conflict that is always a part of life. Wood's prose is strong and flowing, with a good balance of dialogue and narrative, and with several well-developed and memorable characters. It's a hard book to put down. --Constance A. Mellon, Department of Library & Information Studies, East Carolina Univ . , Green ville, NC
Gary Young
Eighth-grader Delrita Jensen is one of those kids who have to survive adolescence and deal with tragedy at the same time. Midway through the novel, Delrita's parents are killed in an automobile accident, and her character is put to the test. She doesn't realize it, but she's a great girl and a perfect niece for her uncle, Punky, an adult with Down syndrome. Punky reveals himself as an impish angel whose joy in life elevates others' lives. His death at the end of the novel transforms Delrita's view of living and dying, appreciating and surrendering. The author's familiarity with Down syndrome is revealed in a touching author's note. A certain earthiness colors the universal themes pursued by Wood through the lives of Delrita and the man who loved clowns. This is a gentle yet strong story, reinforced by the cover art.

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
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Penguin Group
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File size:
353 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

June Rae Wood grew up in Versailles, Missouri, the second of eight children. The third child, Richard, was born with Down's syndrome.

Ms. Wood recalls, "Richard was a happy-go-lucky little fellow, a natural comedian, but those were the 'Dark
Ages,' when society didn't know how to deal with the disabled. Sometimes other kids made fun of Richard or were afraid of him, so we surrounded him with love and a fierce protectiveness." Many years later, Ms. Wood drew on the family's sometimes funny, sometimes painful experiences to break into the world of publishing. Throughout her
childhood she was an avid reader, which laid the groundwork for her writing.

While studying business education at Central Missouri State University she met a young airman, William A. Wood, on a blind date. She soon dropped out of school, married William, and took a job as a clerk-typist at the local air base. When their daughter, Samantha, was born four years later, Ms. Wood became a stay-at-home mom.

Eventually, the family moved into a rural home near Windsor, Missouri. As Ms. Wood remembers, "I was alone all day and the silence was deafening, so I began to write."

For three years, publishers rejected her short stories and a frequently re-written children's novel. However, after Richard died at age thirty-six, she wrote an article about how much her special brother had meant to her family and sold it immediately to Family Circle magazine. The story was later reprinted in Reader's

As a result of those articles, Ms. Wood received mail from adults all over the United States who had been touched by Richard's life story. It occurred to Wood that perhaps she could touch children too, and she began work on The Man Who Loved Clowns, which was published in 1992. For that novel, she created "Punky," a man with Down's Syndrome, in hopes that kids might better understand people who are different.

Ms. Wood's mail now comes mainly from young readers who love Punky almost as much as her family loved Richard.

The Man Who Loved Clowns was awarded the 1995 Mark Twain Award in Missouri and the 1995 William Allen White Award in Kansas.

Ms. Wood is the 1999 recipient of the Edgar Wolfe Literary Award which is presented by the Friends of the Library in Kansa City, KS. She and her husband were blessed with their first grandchild in 1998.

copyright ? 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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The Man Who Loved Clowns 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Merrie McGrath More than 1 year ago
This book is an inspirational story about a young girl and her uncle 'Punky' who has downs syndrome. This story can happen in real life you never know whats going to happen in this world we live in. This book is kinda sad i mean I cried a little when i read this book I hope you read this book and pass on the word about this amazing book!
Rivie More than 1 year ago
I remember reading this in elementary, and I loved it. I had forgotten the name of the book so for 9 years I had been looking for it and I finally found it. I really recommend this book for young kids, preferably in elementary.
VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
Often times I ask people what their favorite book is and what impact it had on them. Several weeks ago, "The Man Who Loved Clowns" was mentioned and so I checked it out. First of all, this is a preteen read, perfect for an upper elementary teacher to read to their classroom and discuss. This is a great story capturing joy, sorrow, and the struggles of growing up; cliques, judgement and acceptance. This is an inspiring book and a great one to share with the next generation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books ive ever read!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An amazing tale of how a teenage girl copes with the loss of her parents and as if that isnt enough, her beloved uncle punky who has downs syndrome. If you want more, the sequels called turtle on a fence post.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is a second one but not in the barns and noble store its called turtle on a fence post. I have not yet read it but it sounds good. I can definitly relate to this book because my brother has downs syndrom. I love him with all my heart though he is four years older than me. I am 13 and i am so tired of people using the "R" word. One time we were at my other brothers hockey game and he came up to me and said "Bella, (not my real name) what does retarded mean?" I about bursted in to tears. Sorry for my story. Get the word out, spread the word to end the word because the R word hurts. - Thanks
85ans More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book! Definitely one of my favorites, I fell in love with it when I was in the 4th I'm 29 yrs old & still read it! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cried a whole bunch ( not bcuz its sad... bcuz theyre such good characters and u get to 'know'them so well)
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book with my class and teacher all together and we always beg for more!!!! I suggest you read this book and NEVER put it down!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book I can not put down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book i will never forget it
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has a wonderful (and depressing) story inside and you have to get into the book to really understand this book well. The only thing that I don't like about this story is wherever you stop, it's a cliff hanger and it leaves me begging for more. This book is about this girl who feels invisible and is okay with that, mainly because she is trying to hide Punky, who has down syndrome, and doesn't understand. She is happy with her life until there is a major accident at Silver Doller City, that turns her life upside down. I hope you decide to read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book and a must read for anyone knowing a special needs person. Just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby. Warms the soul!
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Valerie Ramirez More than 1 year ago
i love this book. couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago