AUDREY UNDER THE BIG TOP | Kirkus Reviews
Audrey is only 12 years old, but she knows exactly what she wants to do when she grows up—she wants to fly…in the circus, that is. That’s why she can’t wait to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus when it comes to town, especially the Flying Wallendas, a family aerial act. With her two younger sisters in tow, she excitedly heads to the big top, but shortly after the show begins, a small fire ignites. The ringmaster implores everyone to stay calm, but with the tent coated in gasoline and paraffin wax for waterproofing, the flames spread quickly. Audrey must escape somehow, but not before finding her missing sisters. From the series title, it can be inferred that Audrey survives, but tense moments will leave readers wondering about the fates of her family and friends (semispoiler: Not everyone makes it out). Set against the backdrop of the Second World War (Audrey’s dad is an Army medic overseas), Audrey’s resilience shines as her father’s adage carries her through: “Be brave.” Gunderson’s text is brisk and emotionally engaging, with airtight plot development. The three sisters are White; some secondary characters are racially diverse judging by the illustrations.