Monday, January 08, 2007
In honor of Celebrate the Circus Week, I'm going to highlight a book by one of my favorite authors, Polly Horvath (who has a new book coming out this year!). There aren't that many authors who can interject lessons of community, tolerance, and understanding in stories that make you laugh out loud. If you know children's literature, you're probably familiar with Everything on a Waffle, which received a Newbery Honor citation, but in keeping with the spirit of today's theme, let me tell you about When the Circus Came to Town.
Springfield was an ordinary midwestern sort of town until the Halibuts and their friends started to move in. It's not everyday that a contingency of circus folks moves en masse to a quiet little town. The Halibuts were the most ordinary out of the circus folks, since Mr. Halibut managed publicity and wasn't an actual circus act. When the Gambini family, a trapeze act, moved in, the townspeople wondered how many more "circus people" would move in. The biggest upset, however, was when the committee-happy Elmira, otherwise known as the snake lady, entered her Snake Cake into the annual bake off.
Through the eyes of an offbeat ten year old girl named Ivy, we see the different reactions of community members to the influx of the unusual but well meaning circus folks. Sandwiched between several community members' ugly and unwelcoming attitudes are the schoolchildren's eventual acceptance of Alfred Halibut (the Halibuts' son) and the courageous (and hilarious) behavior of Ivy's mother.
Some stories that aspire to have a "meaning" fall flat and are embarrassingly transparent. Polly Horvath has an exquisite ability to incorporate meaningful truths into fantastically funny books that appeal to a child's sense of humor and righteousness.
Not quite at the chapter book stage? Consider these books:
You See a Circus by Mike Downs:A young boy introduces us to his circus family. In alternating pages, he shows us how his family act while performing versus how they act when they are offstage.
Song of the Circus by Lois Duncan: When most people think of Lois Duncan, they think about her suspense/mystery novels for young adults. However, she has written several picture books as well. Song of the Circus borrows the "This is the House That Jack Built" style in which a series of events almost leads to two small but brave children being eaten by a tiger. The illustrations are just as larger than life and wacky as the story.
If your child is into the Miss Bindergarten and/or Olivia books, check out Miss Bindergarten Plans a Circus With Kindergarten and Olivia Saves the Circus.
We also have two classics: Circus Caps for Sale (the sequel to Caps For Sale) and Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Circus.