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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

When her stepfather leaves the family, Mo, her half-sister, and their mom cram into her hippie great-uncle Ray’s house in a new town. Anxious about starting a new middle school–as well as more serious dangers like toaster fires and overloaded electrical outlets–Mo does her best to take care of her sister and her depressed mom and to shake off comments from new neighbors, some of whom assume she is a tourist because there are no other Chinese American families around, and a boy at school whose class clown act borders on bullying. Bonding with Uncle Ray over classic rock music helps Mo unwind a bit after school, but at night, she experiences a recurrence of her childhood sleepwalking habit, this time with vivid dreams that linger into the mornings with unexplainable physical connections to a town legend of the ghost of Maudie, a circus elephant that died in a fire. Determined to get to the root of her dreams, Mo enlists the help of her classmate Nathaniel, an authority on ghosts and exorcisms, but as they dig deeper into the town’s past, they begin to realize that the stories about Maudie were distorted and to find peace–for the elephant and themselves–they will have to read between the lines to find the truth, about the circus and the tragedies in their own lives.

Mo’s funny, honest voice propels an enthralling narrative with fantasy elements that function on both a literal and metaphorical level. I had trouble putting this one down and highly recommend it to fans of middle grade contemporary fiction with embedded fantasy elements, such as The Stars of Whistling Ridge by Cindy Baldwin or The Midnight Children by Dan Gemeinhart. This is also a great pick for book clubs!

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