Freaks /

In Victorian London, a lonely band of misfits trapped in a sideshow decides to put their extraordinary talents to use to solve the mysteries that no one else cares about, starting with the stealing of poor children from the banks of the Thames.

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Main Author: Larwood, Kieran.
Format: Book
Published:New York : Chicken House/Scholastic, 2013.
Edition:1st American ed.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Victorian London gets a little weirder in this fast-paced tale of outcasts serving as champions of the oppressed and underprivileged, which won the 2011 London Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition. Ten-year-old Sheba, better known as the Wolfgirl for her layer of fur and ability to sprout fangs and claws, is an orphan who ends up as part of Plump-scuttle's Peculiars, a freak show that also stars a teenage ninja, a trash-talking monkey boy, a romance-writing strongman, and a woman who talks to rats. This gang of unlikely heroes gets caught up in a mystery involving missing street urchins, steampunk monstrosities, and a fiendish set of villains. Newcomer Larwood spins a whimsical yet touching story, injecting the unpleasant reality of Victorian-era poverty with a touch of humor and fantastical elements, making for an enjoyable and none-too-serious adventure. A good deal goes unexplained, meant to be taken at face value (such as Sheba or Monkeyboy's animal natures), but the weird and serious sides of the story balance each other nicely. Ages 10-14. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Debut novelist Larwood introduces Sheba, a 10-year-old crime-fighting Victorian werewolf. Sheba's lived in a dilapidated freak show as long as she can remember, displaying her furred snout and clawed hands alongside Flossy the two-headed lamb. Her purchase by a new master introduces her to the first friends she's ever had: Monkeyboy, a foulmouthed and foul-smelling tailed boy; Sister Moon, a Japanese ninja girl; Mama Rat the rat trainer; and the enormous Gigantus. Newly introduced to London, Sheba's lupine nose is nearly overwhelmed by the city's legendary stench--but it comes in handy when she and her new friends embark on a detecting mission. The poor trash-pickers of the Thames mudflats are losing their children, and only Sheba and her freak-show friends--the Peculiars--can find them. They must rescue the children from a nefarious fiend, aided only by Sheba's nose, Sister Moon's ninjitsu skills, Mama Rat's rodent sidekicks, Gigantus' fists and Monkeyboy's putrid odor. Their adventures bring them from wretched sewers and taverns to the Victorian optimism of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. There's a little too much reliance on stale tropes of fat villains and exotic (and unrealistic) foreigners, but this mystery, peppered by gentle gross-out humor, will appeal to young steampunk fans. (historical note) (Steampunk. 11-13)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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