From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–A story set in Edwardian England. Clarrie and Will's dad is in Australia trying to earn enough money to send for his family. Their mum goes to Ireland for a funeral, where she is mistakenly imprisoned for theft. This leaves the children in the care of alcoholic Uncle Len, a ventriloquist. He and his doll aren't getting many laughs these days, so he encourages Will to dress as Frozen Billy's twin. They become the lead act. In a series of notebooks, Clarrie recounts the gradual change in Will from exuberant younger brother to cold, brittle performer. Clarrie is frightened when he begins talking to creepy Frozen Billy at night. She realizes that he needs rescuing and hatches an elaborate plan. Good Clarrie is able to plot their getaway precisely because no one expects it of her. This melodrama strains credulity but conveys a real sense of the disturbing changes in the characters. Will and Uncle Len spiral into bitterness and detachment, while Clarrie finds a tenacity and cleverness in herself that was previously unknown. Rough black-and-white drawings give a sense of the vaudeville theater and the period. As usual, Fine creates fascinating characters, an intense impression of time and place, and a fast-paced plot.–B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
With Mother wrongfully imprisoned in Ireland and Father away in Australia, Clarrie and younger brother Will are left in the care of Uncle Len, whose fondness for drink and horses consumes the meager income he earns as a music hall ventriloquist. Forced to leave school to work herself, poor Clarrie doesn't know how her diminished family will survive, until Will has an idea that promises happier days. But even good ideas can contain the seeds of destruction, and things begin to look dark, indeed, until Clarrie has a brainstorm. Former children's laureate of Britain, Fine has written an intermittently engaging historical novel cum
mystery that relies a bit too heavily on contrivance. Her Edwardian setting, however, is nicely realized, and her characters--especially clever Clarrie--are sufficiently engaging to keep readers' attention right to the (happy) ending. Michael CartCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved