Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights
Her only real talent is handling animals: “Critters is folks to me.” The cheap outfit her feckless father sells her off to offers critters galore; an escape from Neal, Idaho; and a bit of fame. It also opens the doorway to exploitation and neglect.
But Babe’s love for Euclid (a chimp) and Jupiter (a bear) keeps her anchored, and in Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights, she is among her own kind.
Enter Carlotta Jones, billed as the world’s smallest girl, whose elephant act leaves much to be desired. At thirty inches tall, Carlotta is beautiful, spoiled, and demanding and has very little talent—Egypt, her elephant, dances better than she does.
How can a giant like Babe and a dwarf like Carlotta ever see eye to eye? They don’t at first, but soon they understand that a common enemy can bring anyone together—even a giant and a dwarf.
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.