Ever since Pinocchio, children's stories have featured a variety of puppets and toys that come to life, and even children who turn into toys. Frozen Billy is indeed a puppet--or, more precisely, a marionette--but he remains a wooden dummy throughout this eccentric adventure. In a unique plot twist, a living child pretends to be a marionette, and does this so successfully that an entire novel hangs on the deception.
Set one hundred years ago in Edwardian England, "Frozen Billy" is narrated through a series of notebooks kept by feisty Clarissa, called Clarrie. Her father is in Australia, working to earn passage for the family to join him. When Mother goes to a funeral in Ireland and is unjustly jailed, Clarrie and her little brother Will suddenly find themselves in the care of their strange Uncle Len. A music hall ventriloquist, Uncle Len and his dummy, the Frozen Billy of the title, amuse audiences every night--but Clarrie and Will are not amused that Uncle Len moves into their home, drinks up his paychecks, and takes control of their lives. When Will shows an uncanny talent for mimicking Frozen Billy, Uncle Len incorporates his nephew into the act in hopes of doubling his earnings at the music hall.
Clarrie struggles to hold the family together as the dire situation grows more and more ominous. At first enthusiastic about the act, Will gradually changes from a happy-go-lucky boy to a gloomy, grim shadow of himself, and Clarrie wonders: Is he in fact somehow, mysteriously, turning into a marionette? In desperation, she embarks on a risky rescue scheme that involves a second dummy--and her own theatrical talent.
This complex, captivating novel achieves a rare balance: poetic prose that maintains a believable child's voice. Pencil illustrations by Georgina McGain increase the eerie quality of this chilling adventure. Don't miss the surreal and satisfying "Frozen Billy"!