________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 6 . . . . October 12, 2012


High Wire. (Orca Currents).

Melanie Jackson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
117 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0236-0 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-4598-0237-7 (hc.).

Grades 6-8 / Ages 11-13.

Review by Jocelyn Reekie.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


One day he fastened a wire, three feet off the ground, between two metal height-adjustable ladders. A lot of high-wire walkers start out as jugglers. Philippe Petit did.

That got my attention. Philippe who?

Shecky grunted and loaned me a DVD about Petit’s Twin Tower walk. Shecky danced around me, making weird faces and waving his arms. He wanted to see if he could distract me. He even did cartwheels.

But he never got to me. Huh, he grunted.

After a while he gave up and just kept raising the wire.

One day he told me Circus Sorelli, the summer youth troupe, was looking for a new wire walker. I auditioned, and I got the job.

And now, here I was, seventy-five feet above the ground, on my first night as a Circus Sorelli performer.

Someday I’d be a quarter mile up, like Philippe Petit.


Melanie Jackson’s new novel, High Wire, is chock full of circus lore. Of all the high-school performers in Circus Sorelli, newcomer Zachary (Zen) Freedman’s powers of concentration might just be the best. He knows how to block things out. He knows how to work hard. He’s on track to become a circus star. He’d be fine, if only the people around him would let him be.

     People like Aunt Ellie, Zach’s guardian since an airplane accident killed both his parents two years ago. She decides Zach needs a dog and gets him one. A dog he didn’t, and doesn’t, want. A dog that nearly ruins his act. A dog the circus owner, Zach’s employer, wants gone—immediately. Next comes Jacob (Cubby) Donnell, a three-year veteran of the circus. For some reason Zach can’t fathom, Cubby hates him. He vows to end Zach’s high-wire career before it’s even begun, and sets about doing just that.

     If that isn’t enough to make even the coolest performer stumble and fall, there’s Whitney Boothroyd, the star gymnast of the circus. Whitney, herself, is some distraction for Zach. But it’s her socialite mother who threatens to bring the entire circus down after her glittering heirloom necklace is stolen right off her neck during a performance she attends.

     If the circus folds and Zach loses his job, he’ll spend the rest of the summer standing in front of his aunt’s organic vegetable store with a placard around his neck. Not a job of choice. Also the end of his performance dreams. To save himself from these fates, Zach turns sleuth.

     In her third book in the “Orca Currents” series, Jackson uses her considerable experience and storytelling skills to create an adventure set in what is often considered a magical world. With deft precision, she intertwines the magic of circus with the reality of what it takes to be a part of it. Then she weaves in intrigue. Her characters live real lives and have real dreams. And the uncertainties that beleaguer the young circus troupe are real.

     If the mystery, itself, causes this reader to question its premise and execution, it has redeeming features. It is a mystery a young sleuth could solve, and the solution is something of a surprise.

     Overall, High Wire is a fast-paced adventure that will appeal to any young reader who has dreamed of “joining a circus”, and to those who like mystery.

Highly Recommended.

Jocelyn Reekie is a writer, editor and publisher in Campbell River, BC. Look for Peregrin Publishing’s first title, Escape, in November 2012.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.