Into the dusty hamlet that is Padilla, New Mexico Territory, in 1881 comes a caravan of three tiny coach wagons, each pulled by four tiny mules, the first driven by a man in a top hat and formal coat, the second by a gray poodle holding the reins in his teeth, the third guided by a goat and a black poodle trotting alongside. So starts thirteen-year-old Ed Phelps' adventures with the Great Professor Sabin's Dog and Mule Show, and the most entertaining performance this side of Sid Fleischman. Parisian-bred Professor Sabin is a votary of veal in a land of beef-eaters; he is not only the mentor of the animals but also a proficient musician; and he has integrity. Altogether a remarkable personage, not bullied by a junk man who insists the professor sold his coronet, then stole an ease of brass type. But the coronet was first stolen from the professor by a roustabout, and the type was likely wanted by printer Bayard Phelps, presumably Ed's disappearing uncle. The two turn up first as the Professor's kidnappers, then as counterfeiters and con men in Albuquerque, where Ed helps apprehend them and discovers, to his relief, that the printer has preempted his uncle's name. Which is only a thread -- the central incident has the troupe held in grandee Don Gilberto's unhappy kingdom for his amusement, devising an elaborate act to cover their escape, and then clambering through the mountains, the animals sure-footed while the men stumble. The professor does marvels with rabbit meat, however, and the whole is carried off with winning aplomb. (summary from Goodreads.com)
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