May 02, 2017

The Bonaventure Adventures

Written by Rachelle Delaney
Puffin Canada
978-0-14319-850-5
288 pp.
Ages 9-12
May 2017

I’m hoping The Bonaventure Adventures is just the first of many bon adventures that Sebastian Konstantinov and cohorts Frankie de Luca and Banjo Brady will have at the Bonaventure Circus School.  This tale has memorable characters, both young persons and adults, a distinctive setting in a rundown monastery turned school in Montreal, and enough humour and circus action to keep readers enthralled.  And I haven’t even mentioned the plot!  It’s a three-ring circus of deception, impressions, and creativity, and you’ll definitely want to stay for an encore.

Twelve-year-old Sebastian a.k.a. Seb travels with his father Dragan Konstantinov and rest of the troupe of the Konstantinov Family Circus across eastern Europe.  The circus is a traditional one with a ringmaster, animals, a sword swallower, lion tamer, aerialist, clown and contortionist but it is failing.  When his dad sells the animals to the Bucharest Zoo, devastating Seb, the boy goes behind his dad’s back and enquires about attending Madame Angélique Saint-Germain’s circus school in Montreal.  Since he has absolutely no circus skills of his own–and he’s tried everything without any success–Seb is hopeful that he might learn how to turn things around for the family circus by developing it into a modern one based on storytelling.  But how does he arrange to stay at the circus school without any skills?
The truth will only get you in trouble.  They say it sets you free, but they are lying. (pg. 114)
Unlike the other students, Seb is accepted without an audition as Angélique believes Seb is a charismatic superstar, the highly-skilled son of the wealthy circus impresario Dragan Konstantinov.  But Seb’s deception, trying to pass himself off as a circus scholar, is not the only one at play at the Bonaventure Circus School as he soon learns from his observations of everyone, especially Angélique whom we learn has a hidden agenda based on false information about the Konstantinov Family Circus.

While he becomes friends with his candy-obsessed juggler roommate Sylvain, Seb becomes allies with Frankie, a traceur i.e. she does parkour or freerunning, and Banjo, a skilled slackliner/highliner/trickliner, and the three become known as bêtes noires. In addition to this unfortunate moniker, because they are forever being called to Angélique’s office, the trio are the only ones who remain at the school for weekends and holidays.  This distinction provides them with opportunities to help each other work on their weaknesses, share their strengths and even help save the school in an impressive showing of skill and creativity.

The Bonaventure Adventures is a boisterous read of action and intrigue, a story of children of extraordinary talents–not all circus acts–who come together in a new act of friendship to save themselves and their new home away from home.  It is aptly tagged as “Harry Potter meets Cirque du Soleil”  with the three friends of varying abilities strengthening their performance to high-flying proportions. Rachelle Delaney whose earlier books include The Ship of Lost Souls and The Circus Dogs of Prague is a pro at writing middle grade novels.  Here she consistently gets the voices right–a mix of innocence and bravado– for her characters and healthy doses of friendship, action and new learning experiences–who knew there was so much about circuses to learn?–to make The Bonaventure Adventures a novel that kids will appreciate for its liveliness of action and characters and adults will commend for its wholesome storytelling.  That's a trick in itself.

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Check back tomorrow for my interview with author Rachelle Delaney who dishes about her time in circus school and the research she undertook to ensure The Bonaventure Adventures is a story immersed in an authentic circus experience.

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