The Boy in the Box
Written by Cary Fagan
Sullivan Mintz is the most ordinary eleven-year-old at Beanfield Middle School. In fact, the class bully calls him Mr. Average. Sullivan and his little sister, Jinny, help his parents run a home for the elderly. The only time he’s truly happy is when he’s practicing his juggling. When a he learns of a medicine show parked in a nearby field, he’s drawn to Master Melville’s Medicine Show three nights in a row. He is kidnapped by the owners of the show and told his parents can’t support him anymore. Sullivan slowly learns to fit into the medicine show. He befriends the other kids, all of whom were also kidnapped from their homes. The Melvilles have scary ways of keeping the kids in line. The rest of the story is about Sullivan developing an act for the show and about his parents and friends dealing with his supposed death. The people of Beanfield never give up on him. Given the plot devices of abduction and grief, it is recommended for children at least as old as the fourth grade. This is listed as book one of a series about “Master Melville’s Medicine Show,” so the reader is left to wonder what adventures the author has in mind next.
Because much of the plot revolves around an old fashioned medicine show, comprehension would be helped tremendously by reading activities such as learning about the age of medicine wagons and how they led into vaudeville. Perhaps classes could even prepare a vaudeville type show for parents. What if medicine shows did exist in the twenty-first century?