The Palace of Laughter

The Palace of Laughter

4.6 18
by Jon Berkeley, Brandon Dorman

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Miles Wednesday, orphaned, unwashed and living in a barrel, has never been to a circus before—but then the Circus Oscuro is no ordinary circus. There's a strange beast called The Null and an array of sinister-looking clowns, and when an unusual little girl with wings falls from a tower during the performance, Miles's life is changed forever. As Miles and


Miles Wednesday, orphaned, unwashed and living in a barrel, has never been to a circus before—but then the Circus Oscuro is no ordinary circus. There's a strange beast called The Null and an array of sinister-looking clowns, and when an unusual little girl with wings falls from a tower during the performance, Miles's life is changed forever. As Miles and Little embark on an extraordinary journey to rescue two friends who have been captured at the Palace of Laughter, they discover nothing less than the power of friendship and the gift of family.

Editorial Reviews

Miles Wednesday's first visit to the circus was unusually memorable. For one thing, he never expected to encounter a strange beast called the Null; nor did he imagine crossing paths with a winged creature named Little. But the orphan's introduction to Circus Oscuro was only the beginning of his adventures. In the next stage, he and his angelic companion would be off on their own….

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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The Palace of Laughter

The Wednesday Tales No. 1
By Jon Berkeley

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Jon Berkeley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060755075

Chapter One

A Boy in a Barrel

On a blustery October night the Circus Oscuro came to town. It was clear from the start that this was no ordinary circus. It did not roll into town with fanfares and cartwheeling clowns. No one handed out flyers or announced the show through squawking loudspeakers. Instead, the circus came in the dead of night, when all the townspeople were asleep. Its wagons crept and rumbled down the winding road and across the old stone bridge while the town's fat mayor, who normally had to give his permission before anyone could set up as much as a fruit stall, was snoring in his bed. The circus wagons turned in to the long field at the bottom of the hill that overlooked the town of Larde, and creaked to a halt in neat rows with barely a sound.

From the wagons and trucks a strange crew emerged into the moonlight--great muscled men with sun-darkened faces, a tattooed giantess with a booming voice who could lift three of the men at once, small wiry boys dragging coils of rope and buckets of sawdust. They began to set up their enormous tent there and then by the light of flickering lanterns, with the wind whipping at the stripy canvas and cracking the ropes across the men's hairy arms. Their shoutsand curses were snatched from their throats by the wind and flung up over the hill. Two elephants were led from one of the wagons and set to work, lifting wooden poles into place and pushing them upright with their stubbly foreheads. Acrobats ran up the swaying poles like monkeys, fixing ropes and leaping from point to point as though they were only inches from the ground, gripping lanterns in their strong teeth. A thin man on stilts 20 feet high checked blocks and pulleys and shouted orders to the men below. Slowly the huge tent rose from the grassy field like a great beast awakening, and still the townspeople slept, and the fat mayor's snores ruffled his walrus mustache and rumbled through his wife's dreams.

There was just one witness to the arrival of the circus. A small boy, huddled in a large wooden barrel high on the side of the hill, watched the raising of the big top, awakened from his sleep by the shouts of the circus people and the occasional trumpeting of the elephants. The boy's name was Miles, and the barrel was his home.

Now if you are picturing a shivering boy standing knee-deep in slimy rainwater in an upright barrel, you will need to turn that picture sideways and let the water run out for a start. This barrel lay on its side under a low-spreading pine tree, which provided shelter from the wind and the rain. It was an enormous barrel that had once held a fine vintage wine, and Miles could almost stand upright in it, although he was nearly eleven. It was dry and warm inside. In the barrel was an old mattress that had been thrown out by Piven, the baker, and which still gave out a cloud of fine flour when you sat on it. A candle stub in a fat bottle served as a lamp, and an old biscuit tin with the paint worn off as a larder.

Miles had lived in his barrel on the side of the hill since escaping (for the seventh time) from Pinchbucket House, the county orphanage. He shared his wooden home with a small stuffed bear named Tangerine, no larger than a tall man's hand. When Tangerine wasn't out and about with his owner, he lived in a deep pocket of the old overcoat that Miles used as a blanket. Some of Tangerine's stuffing had escaped, which made him a little floppy. His fur, which had once been the color of a tangerine, was now a kind of orangey gray. His mouth wore a crooked smile, and although he never said a word, he was a good listener.

Under a silver moon Miles, curled up in the mouth of his barrel, watched as the circus tent grew fatter and taller and the thick ropes that anchored it grew tauter. The hypnotic ringing of sledgehammers on iron pegs and the snatches of strange music that floated from the trailers made his eyes heavy and his head nod with sleep. He pulled the old overcoat tighter around him, and closed his eyes for a moment.

When he opened them again he did not know how much time had passed, but everything seemed strangely still. Not an owl's hoot or mouse's rustle broke the silence, and the pine tree stood silently, undisturbed by the faintest breeze. Miles rubbed his eyes and looked out to see if work on the circus tent had ceased, but his eye was caught by something that had not been there before. A large shape crouched in the grass not twenty paces from where he sat in the mouth of his barrel. A shape with a huge head, enormous paws and a long striped tail. It was a fully grown Bengal tiger, stretched out motionless except for the tip of his tail, which twitched from side to side in the silvery grass.

The tiger was so close Miles could almost count his whiskers. His inky stripes seemed to shift and breathe as the thin clouds swept across the moon. Miles held his breath. It was no use crying out; no one would hear him. He had never been face to face with a tiger before, but he was pretty sure that to the magnificent striped beast who sat a stone's throw from his barrel, he must look like a sandwich whose bread had fallen off.

The tiger yawned, his teeth like yellow knives in the red cave of his mouth, and gave a loud but oddly human sigh that made his whiskers shiver. His massive head turned and he stared directly at Miles with . . .


Excerpted from The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley Copyright © 2006 by Jon Berkeley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jon Berkeley was born in Dublin when TV was black-and-white and airplanes still had propellers. He was the worst football (um, soccer) player in the entire parish, and his favorite food was spaghetti bolognese. Some things never change.

Jon has worked as a freelance illustrator for a quarter of a century and more recently has taken to writing. He is the author and illustrator of chopsticks, a story about the friendship between a mouse and a dragon, and has illustrated several books by other authors.

He is the author of the Wednesday Tales series—The Palace of Laughter, The Tiger's Egg, and The Lightning Key, which have been praised for their vivid storytelling, humor, and one-of-a-kind characters. Publishers Weekly said of the palace of laughter: "Berkeley weaves painterly details into his depiction of this night-shaded world but also injects an ample measure of humor."

Brandon Dorman lives in Puyallup, Washington, and is the creator of Pirates of the Sea! and Santa's Stowaway, and the illustrator of Jack Prelutsky's Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face, as well as Halloween Night, by Marjorie Dennis Murray.

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Palace of Laughter (The Wednesday Tales No. 1) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Sarah Otto More than 1 year ago
the first advebture of Miles Wednesday is so cooooooollllllll! whenever i thought i'd met all of the amazing characters, another one shoz up and joins the crew! i returned it to the library two dayz after i'd cheked it out!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(") (**) (") Panda (..) (..)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. Ive read the trilogy, but i like the 1st book best
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Picky_Bookworm More than 1 year ago
If you have a young avid reader looking for something to fill the void books such as Harry Potter has left, then I would highly recomend this book to them. The Palace of Laughter has a wonderfully heart warming story that's packed with action and avdenture to keep them enthralled. Berkeley is a great story teller, and I loved how he was able to describe the scenes. A truly wonderfull story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is one of those books that you stay up till 3'o clock in the morning and regret it the next day when your parents force you to get up at seven. So cleverly written with suspense, action, and humor. I loved every chapter, every page, every word of every sentance. I can't wait to get the sequal The Tigers Egg! I would recommend this book to anybody 7-100. Overall a FABULOUS book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Do you like books with adventure, action, suspense, angels, orphans, a tiger, a nightmarish beast, and a little bit of mystery? The Palace of Laughter has all of that and more. In The Palace of Laughter, an orphan boy meets an angel, named Little, who is looking for someone, but they are quickly pulled into a scheme involving a circus, an evil ringmaster, and a frightening monster of darkness, simply called the Null. This book is great for young readers who love a good adventure. I really enjoyed The Palace of Laughter because it has many exciting twists. A few of the most surprising include: a strange tiger, three eccentric clowns, and Miles the orphan boy¿s parentage. I also liked the action. There are plenty of narrow escapes and tense situations for someone who likes excitement and suspense. Miles and Little have to do a good deal of sneaking around and standing up for themselves. I think it¿s a great fiction story with a happy ending. Filled with action, suspense, and circuses, The Palace of Laughter is a must-read. Will you visit the Palace?
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read is The Palace Of Laughter.I have read it at least 6 times, and each time it gets better and better. The idea of a 'Song Angel' falling from her home in the sky,meeting an orphan boy, and embarking on a perilous journey to the Palace of Laughter, a circus building run by evil people,one named The Great Cortado is just so creative that I read it cover to cover the first time in 9 days.I have now started the second book, The Tiger's Egg, and in 8 hours I have read to chapter 22.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book reads like a fairy tale and is delivered as a work of art. I thought it was fantastically written and a real masterpeice. I would reccomend this book to anyone and everyone I meet. Its richly detailed and colorful descriptions leave you in awe at the sheer joy of simply reading this book. It is wonderful and if possible I would give it an easy 10 out of 5.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book i just got done reading it at school its amaizing!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
But my son won and read it first - but he read it cover to cover in 3 days. A record for him (he's ten) as we can't get him to read anything (except Harry Potter, yawn, though he prefered this). I finished it at 2 am this morning! As a fan of Pullman and Terry Pratchet, I couldn't believe this is the guys first book (and he could teach the others a thing or two, but don't quote). Took me back to memories of my childhood - powerful stuff. No doubt this will be the 'hit of the year' with a film at some stage starring Johny Depp, and like everyone who has an original copy of Bohemian Rapsody (which my dad bought me as a boy) we will be proudly telling our mates we were there at the beginning of something big...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I heard about this from a friend and managed to see a preview copy. Am now desperately buying copies for friends and family - FANTASTIC. Let´s hope the rest of the series are the same. But sometimes the best things in life are kept secret, it would be sad if this great new concept became just the 'next Harry Potter' with the usual commercialisation. Infact, its something much much better...