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Children's Fiction Runaways

Earthly Astonishments

by (author) Marthe Jocelyn

Initial publish date
Feb 2003
Runaways, Circus, 19th Century
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2003
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8 to 12
  • Grade: 3 to 7


In the late nineteenth century, in a dot of a town called Westley, lives the smallest girl in the world. Josephine stands only twenty-two inches high and her parents charge gawkers a penny a piece to see her – until they realize that the headmistress of MacLaren Academy for Girls will pay even more.

At the Academy Josephine is treated like a slave and is tormented by the fine young ladies who attend, until she takes five gold dollars and runs away. She finds a new life with R. J. Walters’ Museum of Earthly Astonishments. Among the other human curiosities in the Coney Island freak show, Josephine finds the family she has never known…and dangers greater than any she’d ever dreamed.

This riveting novel of adventure and injustice, new in paperback, has received many honors, including selection as a finalist for the Canadian Library book of the Year for Children Award, and as a shortlisted title for the Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award and the Red Cedar Book Award.

About the author

Marthe Jocelyn is the award-winning author and illustrator of over thirty-five books for babies, kids and teens. Her illustrated books have been shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. In 2009 she was the recipient of the prestigious Vicky Metcalf Award for her body of work. One Red Button and One Piece of String are the result of her lifelong obsession with scraps, and her delight in surprising the reader with unexpected details. Originally from Toronto, Marthe settled in Stratford, Ontario, after a thirtyyear stretch in New York. For more information, visit

Marthe Jocelyn's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“The protagonist is a compelling and sympathetic character with whom children will identify. The occasional use of letters, newspaper articles, and a billboard ad creates a feel for New York in the 1880s. However, the real story here is that while family isn’t always found where it should be, it’s okay to make one’s own.”
School Library Journal
“…a snappy pace, an exciting plot and flavourful dialogue that’s fun to read…With verve, wisdom and honesty, Jocelyn explores the realities of human curiosity, friendship and life with a physical trait that will always have to be accommodated.”
The Toronto Star
Earthly Astonishments is…original and literary…[with] strong characters and [an] unbeatable story…a sure bet.”
New Brunswick Telegraph Journal
“Tundra seems to be doing an excellent job of making the past come alive for young readers in an intriguing way. This volume is simply a lovely book…From cover to cover, this is a book which I highly recommend.”
St. Catharines Standard

Other titles by Marthe Jocelyn