Interest LevelReading LevelReading A-ZATOSWord Count
Grades 4 - 8Grades 4 - 8W5.540704

In 1852 Ohio, twelve-year-old Owen steals aboard a floating circus called the River Palace, with nothing more in mind than catching a little of the show. But then a free black man named Solomon offers to take him on as an assistant animal keeper, and Owen discovers a family among the ragtag members of the circus-including a young elephant named Little Bet. A brush with yellowfever in New Orleans and a devastating storm threaten the boat and its crew. But it's the menace of slave catchers that poses the greatest danger of all, and that will put Owen's loyalty to Solomon and Little Bet to the test. This is a memorable tale of prejudice, race, and the relationships that transcend them. Inspired by the riverboat circuses of the nineteenth century, it also brings little known historical facts to life.

TRACIE VAUGHN ZIMMER has worked as a special education teacher and reading specialist. She is also the creator of more than 80 teacher's guides for numerous publishers and has published poetry books as well as the novel Reaching for Sun. Tracie lives outside Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two children.


"Like taking slow bites from a piece of homemade lemon pie-sharp sweet and honest."
-Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medal winner

"Josie's strength shines as she handles sadness and loss as well as recovery and progress."-Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Hardcover, 208 pages
Published on August 1, 2008 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ISBN-10: 1599901854
ISBN-13: 9781599901855
1 Book Review
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  • julcla
    julclaTuesday, December 15, 2015 at 7:19 am
    This review is not for this book but for another book that Tracie Vaughn Zimmer wrote called Reaching For Sun.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be disabled? In the book Reaching For Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer Josie Wyatt knows what it's like. In the book Josie is the protagonist and antagonist. Josie is different than all the other kids at school, she has a disability called cerebral palsy, her disability is also one of the major conflicts in the book. Josie just wants to have friends and join in on the fun. She wants to be normal. Josie lives with her mom and gran (grandmother) in a farmhouse that has been in the family for years. Josie's grandmother has been forced to sell some of their land due to their shortage of money and with the huge mansions being built behind their house it now seems even smaller. Things seem to just get worse and worse for Josie. But when a boy her age moves into one of the houses being built behind her house things start to look better for Josie. This book takes place during her 7th grade school year at Josie's house, school, and occasionally the nursing home that she and her gran visit. Another major conflict in the book is when the new boy Jordan moves into one of the new houses. The turning point in the book is when Josie stands up to her mom and tells her how she feels. If you're looking for a short read or just a good book then I recommend reading it!