By Author / Illustrator
Everything with Words
Paperback / softback
Agra 1857, the Indian rebellion. Three children are trying to make their way through a country at war with a circus tiger in search of safety. Jacques is a boy acrobat who has lost his circus; Beatrice ( Bea) and Ping are both orphans. United by a deep friendship and their desire to save Tonton the tiger, find Bea's lost brother and Kamal the fire-eater, they set out on a wild and dangerous journey. Will they make it? A magical tale based on the true story of a lost French circus during the Indian rebellion.
Robin Scott -Elliot's first book The Tzar's Curious Runaways is an historical novel, and this is too, though set at an entirely different time and place. It is India in 1857 and the British rulers are at war with the Indian nationals. The entire country is engulfed in violence and destruction and in the middle of it is Beatrice, an orphan living with her aunt, uncle and cousin in Agra. When violence erupts there, they are forced into the ancient fort and besieged. Beatrice meets two other orphans, Jacques and Pin, and together they have to escape the fort; Jacques to save his tiger Tonton, Pin to survive and Bea to find her brother.
The Acrobats of Agra is another breath-taking adventure in a place and time I know very little about. What the author does particularly well is use a real place and some real people and weave a fictional story around them. It exposes the prejudices of the British at that time towards the Indian population and the injustices of being a woman at that time.
Known as the Indian Mutiny by the British, just the name says it all - the British considered the Indians were mutinying when it was in fact their own homeland and they wanted it back. It is all the more shocking that it took nearly a hundred years from that point to achieve their goal.
Who could resist a story with a line like 'Prove to me that you are the acrobats of Agra and you will live'? This is real adventure, fast paced and exciting through-out. Each character is well depicted, and the real characters come across well - something that does not necessarily happen in historical fiction. The Rani was particularly fascinating, and she sounds like she was an amazing woman.
There is quite a bit of violence and death in this book so it is not suitable for every child, however, any child who wants a really good read would find that this is the book for them.
352 pages / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+