Lizzie lives in a scrap yard with her father, eking out a living dealing in bits of metal and junk. When a circus full of mechanical animals comes to town, her father can’t help but hatch a plan to steal one of them. (And considering how skillfully Grigg depicts the clockwork elephant, I can’t blame Lizzie’s dad: I’d want one too.)
It’s not a fun, light-hearted story, though: The central tension comes from the rough way Lizzie’s father treats her, bordering on abusive. My heart ached for her and her loveless, joyless life as I read the story, and was thoroughly delighted by the happiest of endings that came up entirely unexpectedly.