Fourteen-year-old Harold Kline is an albino--white from head to toe, even his hair and his eyes that are like drops of water. His life is made unbearable by the other kids, who call him "snow" or "maggot," and ever since his father died and his brother was reported missing in Vietnam, his mother has become angry and withdrawn. And so Harold runs away, although it is a wrench to leave Honey, the elderly dog who has been his only comfort. And where would an albino kid on the run end up? In the circus, of course--in this case a down-at-the-heels road show where he is sheltered by a kindly lady midget and her huge man-beast companion and given hugs and unquestioning acceptance by the other "freaks." There he falls in love with the beautiful but duplicitous trick horseback rider and gains self-respect and the admiration of the other circus folks when he accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of teaching the elephants to play baseball. But Gypsy Magda forecasts a "great harm" lurking in the future, and it has something to do with Harold's rejection of the "freaks" who have sheltered him as one of their own.
In this strange, moving novel, the author of sea adventures The Wreckers and The Smugglers has built a compelling metaphor for the universal teenage fear of being declared an outsider. With great emotional veracity, Iain Lawrence plays many intriguing variations on the theme of alienation in a work full of fascinating characters, marvelous scenes, and tragic surprises. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell
From Publishers Weekly
Lawrence seamlessly shifts from the open sea (The Wreckers; The Smugglers) to landlubber territory with this tale of an albino boy who runs off to join the circus. Although the novel's premise may be familiar, there is nothing conventional about the author's portrayal of this taunted hero growing up in a post-WWII America. In lyrical prose, the narrative probes the isolation and alienation of 14-year-old Harold, better known as "Ghost Boy." As the novel opens, Harold awaits a train that does not stop (two years after the war, he still hopes his brother will be on it), when the Old Indian from Hunter and Green's Circus approaches him, posing as an exotic lure. With his father and brother both claimed by the war, his mother remarried to a banker, and the townspeople tormenting him because of his looks ("From the soles of his feet to the top of his head, his skin was like rich white chocolate, without a freckle anywhere"), Harold dreams of heading west. The circus provides his ticket out. Depicting the circus as a microcosm of society, Lawrence effectively conveys the universal desire for acceptance and approval. His knowledge of the big top and insight into humanity add depth to his writing as do vibrant images of circus life and razor-sharp characterizations (e.g., the tiny Princess Minikin, fur-covered Samuel the "Fossil Man" and the compassionate Gypsy Magda, a Holocaust survivor). This poignant adventure invites readers to look beyond others' outer appearances and into their souls. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
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