Many today are unfamiliar with both Mrs. O. F. Walton and her work A Peep Behind the Scenes, which was originally published in 1877. Although it may not be considered a literary classic nowadays, it still is a remarkable story. By the end of the 1800s, A Peep Behind the Scenes outsold Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter by two million copies.
Walton’s story takes you “behind the scenes” of what seems to be the glittering life of the traveling carnival. The story focuses on a little girl named Rosalie. While she struggles with the life of the fair, dealing with her harsh father, and trying to care for her sick mother, Rosalie’s story is not unlike a typical Charles Dickens novel. However, A Peep Behind the Scenes contains a sweetness not commonly found in Dickens’ novels. When a gentleman visiting the carnival gives little Rosalie a picture depicting a lost sheep, the child learns of The Good Shepherd and that she is like that lost lamb needing a Savior.
As Rosalie’s story continues, she meets a host of memorable characters, including the kind and noble-hearted Toby, the spunky but lonely Betsey Ann, and the marvelous Mother Manikin. Walton’s writing style alone is enough to make this a great read, but it is the characters who captivate you.
Though written for children, teens and adults alike can enjoy A Peep Behind the Scenes and learn from the story of Rosalie. Though written in the late 1800s, Walton’s story remains applicable to today’s readers. The story shows sadness and hurting hearts hidden behind the glimmering curtain of show business. “[Rosalie] had learned that aching hearts are often hidden behind the world’s smiling faces. She had learned that there is no real, no true, no lasting joy in anything of this world.” (Page 255) Without the Good Shepherd leading us, nothing can provide the joy and love our hearts yearn for.
A Peep Behind the Scenes teaches and encourages readers. If you are the sort of person who tends to cry at books and movies, I do not doubt that this story will evoke a tear or two. Filled with bittersweet moments and thoughtful dialogue and written with a childlike simplicity, it is a shame that A Peep Behind the Scenes was never placed on the list of literary classics. However, I am sure Mrs. O. F. Walton would be pleased to know that her story is still impacting lives today as each reader falls in love with little Rosalie in A Peep Behind the Scenes.