Atmosphere Press (2021)
Reviewed by Amy (age 17) for Reader Views Kids (08/2021)
“Fedor” by Brant Vickers is a historical fiction/biographical novel about the life of a boy named Fedor. His full name is Feodor Adrianovitch Jefticheff; he was a circus performer in the late 19th century. More specifically, Fedor was a performer in the Black Tent, the sideshow of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Black Tent hosted the “freaks” of the circus: the bearded lady, the zipper headed boy, the human pincushion, the skeleton man, etc. People exploited for the unique abnormalities they were born with. Fedor, known as Jo-Jo The Dog Faced Boy, was labeled so because of a condition where hair grows all over his body–everywhere except palms and the bottom of his feet! Readers join “Fedor” on his experiences, traveling the world with the “Greatest Show on Earth.”
I’m not sure what I expected going into this story, but–wow–“Fedor” blew my mind. I had never heard of Fedor before and enjoyed his story. He surprised me on all levels: his personality, his motivations, his expectations, his ethics, etc. The only picture that didn’t stick with me while reading was his “condition,” as the author clearly developed and showed the reader the more important aspects of the person. I don’t mean I was not aware of Fedor’s looks, but his other remarkable distinctions took center stage, such as being well-read, personable, caring, determined and accepting, among many other things.
I admire Fedor – many people in that situation might feel sorry for themselves, and many in the circus did, but Fedor, while he didn’t necessarily like his circumstances, he accepted who he was and made an incredible life for himself. The issue of self-acceptance is the same now as it was back then, but Fedor’s maturity level was much higher than an average young person, even at that period in time. I loved how intelligent he was, quoting more Tolstoy than anyone should ever be able to remember off the tip of their tongue–I learned a lot from Fedor!
Being that the circus is a roadshow, you might think the plotline would be repetitive and to a small degree it was, the daily lives and routines didn’t change all that much, but the stories shared about many of the performer’s and their lives as readers visited each new place advances readers forward naturally. Though the book is about a young teenager, I think all ages will like “Fedor” by Brant Vickers. It’s full of history, drama, and excitement, along with some heartbreak and despair, but the story is unforgettable and will stay with you long after you finish the book. It’s one of the most entertaining stories I’ve read this year and one I highly recommend.