Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical, edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, coming July 14).
Here's an anthology for those who like their fantasy mixed with the odd, the curious, the peculiar--in this case, the sideshow persons at whom people have gawked for centuries. With stories by authors including Ceci Castellucci, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Margo Lanagan, and David Almond, and three stories in graphic form, there is much here to entertain and disturb. Sideshows are fundamentally disturbing--sticking a person in a sideshow, where their self becomes a source of entertainment to the masses, is about as objectifying as it can get. When the differences that lead to someone becoming a sideshow are combined with magic, mystery, and mayhem, there's a lot of room for great writers of fantastical fiction to make gripping and memorable stories.
Which is what happens here. Not all the stories are set in the circus setting I expected (although some are) but all explore the edge of reality, where freakishness becomes part of life. All the stories are well worth reading, but there were some that I will remember always. In particular, "Those Psychics on TV," by Vivian Vande Velde, hit me like a ton of bricks (but I shan't spoil it by saying anything more). And there's also the most disturbing fictional bread dough I've ever encountered (this story, Castelllucci's contribution, stretches the "sideshow" theme somewhat, but it was such a good, Joan Aikenish story that I'm glad it's here), a mummy who is both an antiquity and a mummy in the maternal sense, shapeshifting, a visit from "God," and more...
(disclosure: ARC received from the publisher)