Punch with Judy
illus. by Emily Lisker
Bradbury Press, 1993
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What’s this book about?
An outcast young boy, orphaned by the Civil War, is taken in by the owner of a traveling medicine show and, despite the doubts of others, confirms the man’s faith in him and his talents.
The boy is a starving orphan living on the streets when Mr. McSneed puts him in a traveling medicine show and calls him “Punch.” Now he’s Punch with Judy and, it turns out, that’s all that matters—if only he can make it last, when everyone around them is against them.
Story Behind the Story
When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) my focus was theatre. As it happened, the Theatre Department organized a group of students to perform Othello, Shakespeare’s great tragedy in schools throughout the large state of Wisconsin. This was, to put it mildly, a deeply edited version of the play, which, when we performed it, lasted only one hour. Normally, it should take two to three hours.
I was brought on just as stage manager, because it was well known among my theatre pals that I was a bad actor. For one thing, I could not remember lines.
“Avi … creates a dark, eerie world as backdrop for his somber narrative; while the story starts slowly, it eventually becomes an absorbing tale centered around Punch’s unrequited love for Judy. This beleaguered protagonist engenders such sympathy that readers will cheer him on through his many predicaments. Lisker’s stark black-and-white spot illustrations suit the novel’s melancholy tone.”