When the Circus Came to Townby Laurence Yep, Suling Wang
One day Ah Sam surprises Ursula by bringing a circus to town, but there's one problem-there's no music. Ursula is the only one who can play the harmonica, but that means
Ursula always wanted to see the circus. That is, until she caught smallpox. Now all she wants is to hide her scarred face from everyone. But Ah Sam, her parents' Chinese cook, has other ideas.
One day Ah Sam surprises Ursula by bringing a circus to town, but there's one problem-there's no music. Ursula is the only one who can play the harmonica, but that means she'll have to go outside and face the world again. Will Ursula save the circus or will she hide forever?
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.25(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 - 10 Years
Read an Excerpt
The Back of Beyond
I live at the Back of Beyond. At least that's what Pa calls it. Folks who don't know any better call it Whistle. That's because when someone rides through town, it's gone between the pucker and the first note of the whistle.
When I was no bigger than a wink, Pa took me piggyback out of Whistle. On his shoulders I felt a mile high.
His legs seemed so long that he crossed a hill in one stride. And his shadow seemed to sweep right out of Montana and straight across a thousand miles to the Pacific Ocean.
Finally he stopped. �Look at those hills in the badlands, Sugar. They look just like melted candy. And the river forgets its way and gets lost. There's magic all around us because we live at the Back of Beyond.�
�The Back of Beyond,� I repeated slowly.
�In the winter the snow only comes up to my waist, but it comes all at once. And look at that sky. There's nothing between us and Heaven.�
I wrapped my arms around his forehead and leaned back even more. The sky was so blue that it made me ache inside, and so big and deep that there was no end to it.
You couldn't get me to live anywhere else -- not for a thousand dollars. Not for ten thousand. There was always something to keep me hopping. We ran a stagecoach station, so there were horses to tend. I never gave them names though or got too friendly with them. They could be gone with the next stagecoach.
And when a stagecoach came in, didn't we jump! There were a hundred things for a body to do, and all of them had to be done at once. Sometimes I helped Pa change the horses. Sometimes I helped him load and unloadpackages. A lot of times I helped Ma serve meals to the passengers.
When chores were done, I could walk through a meadow. After a rain was best, because the sage smelled the freshest. Or I'd give an ear to the larks in the meadows along the rivers. Or in the spring I could pick lupines until my arms ached.
And there were always stories to read. My teacher, Miss Hardy, had all these books. By the time I was nine, I'd read every one.
But all my best friend, Susie, could talk about was the Little Ladies of Boston series. Susie was a year older than me. She'd read them and sigh. �I can't wait to visit my grandmother some year. She says I can stay the whole summer in Boston. They got a park with a real carousel. Then I'll get to do everything like the Little Ladies. Not like here. There's nothing to do in Whistle.�
Susie's grandmother always sent her the latest dresses and toys. So Susie showed off a little too much sometimes.
I'd read the Little Ladies books too, and all the girls did was wear lots of clothes and drink tea. So I just shrugged. �You can't do anything but be polite and say �Yes, ma'am' and �No, ma'am.' And it's please this and please that. And you have to sit up straight all day. It sounds more like jail to me -- except in jail you get to scratch when you itch.�
�How you talk, Ursula,� Susie said. �They don't wear pretty dresses in jail.�
�No, because it's too hot in the summer. They dress convicts sensible in just a shirt and pants,� I said. �There, I got you!�
�I can't talk to a person who's got no sense,� Susie said, and went off in a huff.
I was smarting, though, from the things she had said about our town. So later, when I went for a walk with Pa, I asked him if he would like to live in Boston.
He shook his head. �Not for a million dollars, Sugar. Everybody locks their doors there. And everyone's a stranger who wouldn't give you the time of day.�
�Susie says they got all these museums,� I said.
He shook his head even harder. �And they plant those museums and houses so close to one another that they can hardly see the sky. A gopher's got a better view from his tunnel.�
�And they got all these fancy restaurants,� I said.
�And fancy prices, too. You can pay a month's wages there and come away hungry.� He patted his stomach. �Give me your ma's cooking anytime.�
I kicked at a rock. �So you like it here?�
�Rugged folk like rugged places,� Pa said.
I grabbed one of his suspenders and let it go with a whack. �Like you and Ma?�
Pa swept me up in his arms and whirled me round so fast that my head just about spun away. �And like you.�
Who needed a carousel when they could have Pa?When the Circus Came to Town. Copyright � by Laurence Yep. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Laurence Yep is the acclaimed author of more than sixty books for young people and a winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. His illustrious list of novels includes the Newbery Honor Books Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate; The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee; and The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island, which he cowrote with his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, and was named a New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.
Mr. Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife, the writer Joanne Ryder.
Suling Wang has worked in illustration, animation, and multimedia design for several years. She lives in San Francisco, California.
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