The Palace of Laughter, by Jon Berkeley.
I picked up this little book at random at the library. I’ve had such small luck in getting good book recommendations when it comes to juvie fiction that I’ve started grabbing random titles off the shelf, if they look vaguely interesting. I’ve gotten some real lemons.
Palace of Laughter was not a lemon.
It was actually a pleasant surprise, because it was well-written and drew me in from the first page.
It’s about a boy who is an orphan, and watches a strange circus come to town. He meets a talking tiger, which makes him visit the circus. There the boy, Miles, meets a young girl who calls herself Little, who turns out to be an angel who is trying to get back to the sky realm. But she’s also trying to rescue another angel who was captured by the circus, so Miles and the girl (and the tiger) go on a road trip to find him.
Along the way they meet oddball minor characters, like the lady who lives in a tree house, or the crazy old blind man who adores apple jelly. The bad guys in charge of the circus are bad without being over-the-top scary, as in some books I’ve seen. The ending left me satisfied, but curious about further adventures with these characters.
Overall, this was a fun, light-hearted romp, just the way I like my juvie fiction. The bad guys were scary enough to give me a delicious shiver, but not, say, to the point of Voldemort where he makes your skin crawl in revulsion. The creature called the Null has some interesting questions as to his origin, and he was really the scariest part.
The second book is called The Tiger’s Egg, and I’m going to pick it up next time I’m at the library.