Wild Boy

304p. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6252-3; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6769-6. LC 2013931467.
Gr 5–8—Sherlock Holmes meets Oliver Twist in this mystery set in a carnival of oddities in 1841 London. A boy moves from a wretched workhouse to Augustus T. Finch's traveling carnival, hoping to belong somewhere. Feared and reviled because thick hair covers his entire body, the child knows only the name "Wild Boy." This hirsute hero assuages his loneliness by observing passersby, analyzing minute clues to peel back details of their lives. Wild Boy and another circus child, Clarissa, become involved in a mystery of their own when a hooded man murders carnival member and eccentric scientist Henry Wollstonecraft over his curous "machine." Framed for the crime, Wild Boy must use his detective skills to clear his name, but he becomes even more invested when he learns the machine might be able to make him look "normal." Jones explores the traditional themes of acceptance and identity. Wild Boy comes to accept his knack for detective work and faces a choice between honoring his friendship with Clarissa and personal gain. The mystery unravels along well-trodden paths. As soon as Wild Boy tells the audience that he trusts a certain character above all others, savvy readers will guess at that character's guilt. While many novels express with greater originality the theme of coming to terms with society's judgments, this one may appeal to children who like unusual characters and quirky historical settings in their detective stories.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT

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