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And then a tattered circus comes to town, and a tiger comes for him. It leads him out...
And then a tattered circus comes to town, and a tiger comes for him. It leads him out into the night, and nothing in Joe Maloney’s world is ever the same again.
The transformative power of imagination and beauty flows through this story of a boy who walks where others wouldn’t dare to go, a boy with the heart of a tiger, an unlikely hero who knows that sometimes the most important things are the most mysterious.
From the Hardcover edition.
Living with his mother in a small village on the edge of the suburbs, shy, often inarticulate, Joe Maloney frequently dreams of a beautiful, elusive tiger whose significance begins to be clear after he befriends a young trapeze artist who comes to town with a shabby traveling circus.
From the Hardcover edition.
All that night, Joe Maloney sweated, twisted and turned. He dreamed that engines roared and lights blazed. Men yelled, children screamed, dogs yelped. Metal hammered on metal. He dreamed that the surface of the earth was lifted and hung from great hooks in the sky. Beneath it, shapeless beasts danced in the dark. Then he lay dead still. Easy breath, easy heart. He smelt sawdust, canvas, animal sweat, animal dung. Gentle noises, creakings and flappings. He felt something fingering his skull, felt someone whispering his name. He was about to wake up in some new place.
"Joe!" yelled his mum. "Joseph!"
He opened his eyes: just his bedroom, pale sunlight filtering through thin curtains, childhood drawings taped to the walls, his clothes in a heap on the floor. He sniffed the air, trying to smell the tiger again.
"Joe!" she called. "Come on, son, will you?"
He slithered from the tangled bed, picked up his clothes and dressed himself. He dragged on his heavy boots. He sniffed, listened, narrowed his eyes.
In the bathroom, he splashed water onto himself, then leaned close to the mirror, inspected his pale face, his tangled hair, his one green eye, his one brown eye. He touched his skin. He hadn't changed. He was still just Joe Maloney.
He went down into the kitchen. She was at the table, pouring orange juice. She shook her head and clicked her tongue. She tugged his shirt square on his shoulders. She fastened the laces of his boots. "Joe Maloney. What you like?"
"L-like me," he said.
She cuffedhim gently on the shoulder.
"Like you. And you're going to need me to get you up and get you dressed all your life?"
He grinned again.
He buttered some toast and chewed it. She smiled, and smoothed his hair with her fingers and palms.
"I had a d-dream," Joe said.
"Now there's a change."
"There was . . ."
She shook her head, but she leaned toward him, about to listen.
"There was . . . ?" she said.
Joe rubbed his eyes and blinked. He looked out of the window and gasped. The summit of a blue tent stood high over the rooftops at the village's edge.
He jabbed the air. A blue tent, a blue paler than the morning sky. A great blue tent that trembled slightly in the morning breeze.
"What?" she said.
"There, look, Mum."
She narrowed her eyes and peered.
"Tent," he said. "A tent."
"Oh . . . Aye. Now where might that come from?"
They gazed at it together, the slope of blue rising from the dusty red rooftops.
"Fancy that," she said. "A circus or something, eh? Last time a circus came to Helmouth was in . . ." She shrugged. "Before our time, I reckon."
Joe shoved a piece of toast into his mouth. She put her arm around him as he prepared to go out.
"Now, then, Joseph Maloney," she said.
He lowered his eyes, then turned them to her.
"You know what I'm going to say, don't you?"
"You make sure you get into school today. OK?"
She kissed him.
"Don't want that rotten Wag Man coming round again, do I?"
"You. What a lad. Sometimes wonder what I brought into the world. How can a lad be so lovely and so much trouble? Can you answer me that?"
"No, Mum. Come on, then, give us a kiss."
She took him to the door, watched him walk through the garden to the front gate. She raised her finger as he turned to wave. "Be sure, now," she said.
"Yes, Mum," he said, then hurried toward the Cut.
Posted March 6, 2012
Posted October 10, 2005
The surreal province, David Almond has created in his fifth book, Secret Heart, is dark, haunting and reminiscent of the stylistic and contextual elements of English classics produced by the likes of C. S. Lewis and even Kipling. Simple, stuttering, dreamy Joe Maloney is the prototypical, ostracized young boy who doesn¿t fit in. He has phenomenal powers, of imagination and observation, bordering upon the supernatural. The progression of the first half of the plot is rather slow but steady. The reader travels to the town of Helmouth in the slums of England, where `nothing happened. In helmouth, everything came to just nothing.¿ Adding to this gloomy setting are the despicable occupants of this town who simply cannot allow someone like Joe to live peacefully. The novel explores some wonderful themes pertaining to self knowledge, gender expectations, and the reconceptualization of the traditional hero. Furthermore, it is undoubtedly a great work of imagistic wealth, containing aspects of stream of consciousness. The dynamics of a parent-child relationship are also subtly addressed through Joe¿s `Mum¿s¿ willingness to give him space and credit to develop and grow, even though he is, conventionally speaking, a special child. Nonetheless, there are certain disturbing elements in Almond¿s work as well. While it may not appear so in a first reading of the text, on closer reading, the novel appears to be rather didactic. For instance, it brings to fore the time long battle between man and nature, in which nature symbolizes goodness, renewal, and rebirth while man is emblematic of meaningless destruction and hate. There is no middle path offered as one can either be one or the other as is depicted in Joe¿s ability to blend into the natural world. The novel also appears to negate, organized institutions symbolized by Joe¿s aversion to school, the psychologists, and social workers who desecrate the sanctity of his domestic and mental privacy. Whether that¿s entirely justified is for the reader to decide. Moreover, the fact that Joe chooses `the wilderness, the larks, the rats and rabbits and stoats. And he accepted the loneliness that went with this choice,¿ raises the question whether the novel is promoting a life of escapism, exile, and self-isolation for those who think differently. It can also be perceived as concluding that only people at odds with conventional society, like the circus people and Joe, are truly kindred souls with noble missions. There are certain jarring discrepancies in the plot as well. For instance, while it seems to propagate the respect of nature there is morbid sadism involved in the Hackenschmidt¿s treatment of the poor Andulican goats that are transformed into unicorns through a cruel process. Although Almond¿s novel is classified as children¿s literature, it is redolent with sophisticated literary and philosophical context like naturalism and reincarnation granting it an edge over other children¿s literature that undermines the reader¿s ability to grapple with complicated ideologies. All in all, keeping mind Almond¿s admirable record of award-winning children¿s literature, the Secret Heart is highly recommended reading. The only pre-requisite is that it be approached with an intelligent and critical approach so that none of the true wealth contained in it is lost.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 27, 2004
i will admit that i did take me a while to get interested in this book. i would try reading it, only to get distracted and stop and leave it for awhile. but recently i picked it up again and i must say i enjoyed it this time. i stayed with the book and after reading it all i can say about it is.. well, 'wow'. this book is pretty powerful and brings you to see things a little clearer about the world. i think the reason it took me so long to read it is because i wouldn't have understood it at those earlier times. i dont think a whole lot of people will like this book, and i dont expect them to, but i really like this book and see it as something to experience. try it out... if you cant grasp it, wait a while, then try again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2003
This mystical, slow moving novel leaves too many loose ends and has too little action. As a school librarian, I feel terrible that I spent money on a book I won't recommend. This work may find an appreciative readership among the same crowd of adults who enjoyed Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but I can't imagine most youngsters sustaining interest.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.