This one I blame on Olivia. That sassy pig is just so darn enticing, we couldn't help checking out Olivia Saves the Circus during a recent library visit. And while we loved that book, it raised a lot of questions from Sprout about just what a circus is anyway. As with so many other things in life, it's a lot easier to show about circuses than it is to tell, so suddenly we've found ourselves reading an elephant-sized pile of circus tales.
First up was Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer. In this entry, our porcine heroine takes her turn at telling her class about her vacation. Naturally her story is vastly entertaining, as she relates the tale of stepping in to save the circus when all the performers were sick (with ear infections). Think Olivia the clown, Olivia the trapeze artist, and of course Olivia the Tattooed Lady. In typical Falconer fashion, it's the story behind the story that the pictures truly reveal. A fun entry in the preschooler-friendly series!
To the Big Top by Jill Esbaum was a great way to really explain to Sprout what a circus is. Set in the early 1900s, the story follows Benny and Sam as they experience the circus that rolls into their small town. From helping to set up the tent and watching the circus parade, to walking through the midway and encountering one cheeky monkey, this book is a real romp. The whiff of nostalgia is carried throughout David Gordon's illustrations, which really bring an old-style show to vivid life. Though a bit long (better for older ones than toddlers), this one hearkens back to yesteryear and is a great snapshot of history.
A better circus-themed read for the younger set is author/illustrator Johanna Wright's The Secret Circus. This is a gentle tale, set in Paris, of a circus so secret that only the mice know about it. Only the mice know when to go, how to find it, or what they'll see there. Each spread features charming depictions of mice families getting ready to go, flying to the circus in a hot air balloon, and taking their place among the spectators. The soft color palette and whimsical illustrations make this a good choice for slowing this down just before bedtime.
For a tongue-in-cheek selection, try Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth by sisters Kate and M. Sarah Klise. Little Rabbit's mother insists he must tidy up his playroom before he can go to the circus. Well, that's just impossible, and Little Rabbit has a bit of a meltdown. And then he gets an ingenious notion - he'll join the circus, that's what, and he'll sell tickets so everyone can see the Meanest Mother on Earth. That'll show Mother! Soon Little Rabbit's Mother seems not only mean, but downright ferocious. But what will happen when the crowds meet the real Mother? The moral of the story is pretty clear, but revealed with the lightest of touches. And the pictures are as cute as can be (Sprout likes the Dalmatian ringmaster best of all).
If storytime feels in a rut, maybe it's time everyone ran off to the circus. . . we've certainly enjoyed the show!