engaging story about being different
PROFESSOR RENOIR'S COLLECTION OF ODDITIES, CURIOSITIES, AND DELIGHTS primarily follows Babe, a fourteen-year-old girl who has gigantism. She already stands at nearing 7' tall and towers over everyone around her. She was not taught well, as she was kicked out of school when she was younger, and her father shows little to no interest in her. She sleeps in the barn, and she is happy with that as she loves animals and brings strays in to help them heal.
When Professor Renoir comes to town to see about purchasing her services, her father is all too happy to let her go, as long as he gets a good sum of money. Babe is willing to go and curious to find others who are different like her. On the circuit, she learns that the group is suffering financially, and another act has recently been purchased- a girl her age with dwarfism and a dwarf elephant. Her encounters with the girl, Carlotta (Lotty), have not gone well so far.
Babe finds solace in the friendship of the fortune teller, Madame de la Rosa, and in the aging animals in the group, a chimpanzee and a bear. However, with the group's finances being so bad, Renoir wants to kill the animals and stuff them. To prevent this from happening, Babe will team up with Carlotta.
What I loved: Babe's perspectives on the carnival are unique and provide new insight into the lives of the people and animals involved. The characters and the story really come to life in this book, with Babe feeling very real and three-dimensional, and even the other people capturing hearts and imaginations through their interactions with her (particularly Madame de la Rosa). There's a very clear villain here, and this seems common in this type of group, revealing important messages about the treatment/abuse of animals. There are also some great themes revealed through the interactions between Babe and Lotty with first impressions, appearances, and working together.
Final verdict: Fans of historical fiction and WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will delight in this enthralling book about a very tall girl and her journey through the carnival circuit. Babe is a fantastic and relatable character that shines through this story.