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Peter Cumming
Illustrated by P. John Burden

Charlottetown (P.E.I.), Ragweed Press, 1989. 164pp, paper, $8.95
ISBN 0-920304-82-6. CIP

Grades 3 to 5/Ages 8 to 10
Reviewed by Hugh A. Cook.

Volume 18 Number 3
1990 May

This historical fiction is the type of story one could use to read to an elementary Junior class and hook almost everyone. If one chose to read only a chapter per day one might even create a small riot, for there are some very tense moments for the main characters.

Based on a reported ship fire in Penobscot Bay in 1836, this fictional story tells of the Dexter & Burgess circus; Mogul, an elephant; and the main character, "me." The first-person narrator, "me," is a young boy who lives with his father on a pioneer farm in New Brunswick. "Me" has recently lost his mother in a house fire and has never learned to read. When a sign advertising the touring circus is posted on the right-of-way, the boy must rely on his father to find out what it says. Excitedly, the two agree to visit the circus when it arrives at Saint John.

The boy is overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the circus and very disappointed when the trip ends. He persuades his father to let him watch the loading of the circus on board the paddle steamer as it prepares to leave for its winter quarters. Because of his knowledge of how to handle animals, the boy is asked to help get Mogul to his winter camp. As temporary guardian of Mogul, the boy almost loses his life on the doomed ship when he attempts to save the elephant. The ending is somewhat less than expected but not disappointing.

Hugh A. Cook, Maple, Ont.
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