By Corliss Jacobs
The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize how incredible laughter is. When we are little children, it comes so easily to us that we take it for granted. As we grow older and learn more about the hectic, troubled world we live in, we find fewer and fewer reasons to laugh. Without laughter we are missing a key component of the human soul. For me, I have found that even something as simple as laughing at something silly I see online can make a world of difference in my mood, my mental health, and my outlook on the day. As trivial as it may seem, laughter is an integral part of being human. When we don’t laugh it leaves a hole that cannot- and should not- be filled by anything else. A powerful reminder of this fact is The Palace Of Laughter.
The Palace of Laughter is the first book in The Wednesday Tales series by Jon Berkeley. In the hamlet town of Larde lives a boy named Miles Wednesday, who lives in a rain barrel by himself ever since he ran away from the cruel orphanage he used to call home. He does not know who his parents were. All he has left of them is a little teddy bear that he calls Tangerine, which he carries with him everywhere he goes. Miles’ life is forever changed when the mysterious Circus Oscuro rolls into town in the dead of night. When he sneaks in to see the show he meets a little girl with a pair of wings on her back called Little. She has been trapped by the wicked ringmaster of the circus, The Great Cortado, and his dumb yet imposing right hand man Genghis. Miles frees Little, and after they escape from the Circus together Little explains that she is a Song Angel. Her job is to fly about in the cloudy cities above the earth and to sing the One Song, which has kept the world going since the beginning of time. Little also explains that her angel friend SIlverpoint accidentally fell to earth. In her attempt to save him, they both became trapped in the realm of humans. The two angels were both quickly captured by the Great Cortado, who kept Little in the Circus Oscuro and sent Silverpoint to the mysterious Palace of Laughter. The Palace is heart of the evil ringmaster’s hidden, more sinister intentions. Miles bravely decides to take Little to the Palace to help her save Silverpoint and get them both home. Miles had lost his own home as a baby, so he figures he can at least help Little return to hers. Along the way they meet a strange, colorful cast of characters, including a sarcastic talking tiger who agrees to help them on their journey. When the children finally reach the Palace, it is the ultimate test of bravery, friendship, family, and of the true power of laughter.
Berkeley paints such gorgeous, vivid pictures of the odd yet wondrous world he created, all with his unique way of writing. Palace has a vivid strange sort of beauty in it, while also being silly enough to make me laugh! In rereading this book, I realized I had forgotten just how powerful it all is. Many valuable lessons are taught, things that I’d want my future kids to know. These lessons don’t take you out of the story or feel at all preachy. They fit the Wednesday universe created by Berkeley and WHAT a universe it is! It’s hard to blend real world settings with such a complex fantasy, and Berkely soars with this aspect of his writing. The world of Palace is so delightfully weird, but my favorite part is how much Miles and Little grow to love and care for each other on their journey. This story really drives home the meaning of “found family”, and will also reinforce the importance of the family relationships we have. Originally published in 2006, this series is sadly out of print and can only be found on Thriftbooks, AbeBooks, or a lucky day on Amazon. But I assure you that it is well worth the hassle to get this wondrous novel on your shelves. I give this book ⅘ stars, and I definitely recommend it for younger kids and older kids alike- or anyone who needs a good story about the power of laughter, friendship, and family.