In England, back when long skirts and bodices were worn by girls, a circus came to town. Kitty was able to get to the High Street to see the passing parade, and she watched the lions, the acrobats and the clowns, but most of all, the horses. Kitty lived at home with her mother and father, who ran a coach house, renting carriages. Theirs was not a happy home and Kitty’s beloved brother, Tom, had run away several months earlier. Father was a hard task master, and when his daughter offered to take over the care of the horses, he flatly refused, even though he knew her love and affinity with them.
Kitty decided that she would run away as well, and thought that, if she went to the circus they might take her in, even to muck out the stables. She could never do this as a girl, and so she cut her hair very short, borrowed some of Tom’s clothes, and sneaked out of the house after nightfall. When she arrived at the circus tent she met a lad, Fred. She asked him if he had heard of her brother, and then asked if there was a job with the horses. As she was riding one of the most difficult horses, a man came in and asked who she was. He said that they were short of a stable lad and would give Kit a two week trial. Fred began to show her around the circus, when the music started up, and Fred invited Kit to come and watch the circus.
So begins a new life for Kit. She works very hard and develops a wonderful rapport with the horses. One of the performers asks Kit to help him train a horse for a new production, and she is delighted. Bit by bit, she begins to develop a relationship with other members of the circus, and is wary of some and friendly with others. Next Kit is asked to play the role of a clown. The master of the clowns is a particularly nasty man and causes Kit to face many an unpleasant situation. Someone is also determined to sabotage an act, and cruelly puts a piece of glass under a horse’s saddle. There is mystery, mayhem and romance afoot.
As a short novel, this is an excellent piece of writing, with an excellent presentation. The pages are cream coloured paper for people with visual discrimination issues, and the text is a larger, plain font, well-spaced. The fact that Kitty masquerades as a boy, and lives in a boy’s world for a while, means that it will appeal to both genders. The author admits to being inspired by William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Jane England has set the story in a circus, because it is similar to a magical place where anything can happen.
Kitty has always had the dream of discovering her brother, and it is this that drives her on, after making peace with her family. A terrific read.
|Publisher||Faber Factory/Barrington Stokes|