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Frozen Billy Hardcover – October 31, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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 Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374324816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374324810
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,091,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Ever since Pinocchio, children's stories have featured a variety of puppets and toys that come to life, and even children who turn into toys. Frozen Billy is indeed a puppet--or, more precisely, a marionette--but he remains a wooden dummy throughout this eccentric adventure. In a unique plot twist, a living child pretends to be a marionette, and does this so successfully that an entire novel hangs on the deception.
Set one hundred years ago in Edwardian England, "Frozen Billy" is narrated through a series of notebooks kept by feisty Clarissa, called Clarrie. Her father is in Australia, working to earn passage for the family to join him. When Mother goes to a funeral in Ireland and is unjustly jailed, Clarrie and her little brother Will suddenly find themselves in the care of their strange Uncle Len. A music hall ventriloquist, Uncle Len and his dummy, the Frozen Billy of the title, amuse audiences every night--but Clarrie and Will are not amused that Uncle Len moves into their home, drinks up his paychecks, and takes control of their lives. When Will shows an uncanny talent for mimicking Frozen Billy, Uncle Len incorporates his nephew into the act in hopes of doubling his earnings at the music hall.
Clarrie struggles to hold the family together as the dire situation grows more and more ominous. At first enthusiastic about the act, Will gradually changes from a happy-go-lucky boy to a gloomy, grim shadow of himself, and Clarrie wonders: Is he in fact somehow, mysteriously, turning into a marionette? In desperation, she embarks on a risky rescue scheme that involves a second dummy--and her own theatrical talent.
This complex, captivating novel achieves a rare balance: poetic prose that maintains a believable child's voice. Pencil illustrations by Georgina McGain increase the eerie quality of this chilling adventure. Don't miss the surreal and satisfying "Frozen Billy"!
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