No Stars at the Circus, Mary Finn

9781406347333It is August, 1942 and Jonas Alber is ten years old. It is hard to write a review about a book that begins with such a beautiful narrative voice… There is something truly humbling about trying to compete with that voice. Jonas begins the book with his “Last Will and Testament” and goes on to explain why he is writing this Will as a ten year old:

“I am living in rue Cuvier now because Signor Corrado brought me to see the Professor yesterday. He fixed it up for me to come here and be safe. So far, I have been safe in this house for one day.”

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear to readers that Jonas has been separated by his family who have been rounded up by the Nazis. Jonas’ journey into hiding has taken him through a circus, into the arms of some simply wonderful characters and finally to the safely of the Professor who we discover was Jonas’ mother’s music teacher when she was younger.

What struck me about this book was the wonder that was woven into such a terrifying period of our history. Jonas finds safety in such unusual places and the innocence with which he perceives his experiences is both refreshing and sad.

While this book didn’t touch me in the same way that Leon Leyson’s memoir did, I still think it’s an incredibly valuable young adult book about life during this period. If you’re a fan of good YA historical fiction, I highly recommend this book and I will certainly be on the lookout for more books by the stellar Mary Finn.


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