Books About the Circus

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Children's book list about the circus. Reviews of each. Choices for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary aged children.

The circus is a perfect theme for a week of preschool.  There are bright colors, animals, tons of activities and things to talk about.  We enjoyed all of these circus books during our week of circus themed home preschool, and I hope that you enjoy them as well!

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Peter Spier's Circus!, part of children's book review list about the circus

Peter Spier's Circus! by Peter Spier

Wow!  This book wins my prize for best circus book.  Peter Spier is a fantastic illustrator, and this book is some of his best work.  The detailed illustrations in this book give young readers tons to look at and notice.  Additionally, the text in the book provides really interesting information.  He describes how the circus arrives in town, interesting details about the performers and their lives behind the scenes, where the performers are from, and even about how some of the animals get to rest when they are sick.  Children and adults of all ages can find something to enjoy in this book.  It's definitely a keeper.

Olivia Saves the Circus, part of children's book review list about the circus

Olivia Saves the Circus by Ian Falconer

My girls love Olivia, and this book may just be our favorite of the series.  Olivia has quite the imagination, and when she is asked to tell her class what she did on her summer vacation, she tells an elaborate tale of how she single-handedly saved the circus one day after all the performers became sick.  She does all the acts, with typical Olivia panache.  This book will make you smile.  I especially enjoyed the muted pink, gray, and white color scheme of Olivia's imagination sequence.  

Circus Opposites, part of children's book review list about the circus

Circus Opposites: An Interactive Extravaganza by Suse MacDonald

Bright colors, inviting scenes, and lots of little flaps, pull-outs, and slides make this book a gem.  Watch out!  If your kids aren't gentle on books, this one isn't for you; there are a few delicate pieces.  But if you want to supervise your children closely, or if they aren't likely to be rough, then this is a great circus book.  The text features opposites, which adds a nice learning element as well.   It is fairly simple, though, so this book is suitable for toddlers and preschoolers, and wouldn't have much appeal to older children.

Miss Bindergarten Plans a Circus with Kindergarten, part of children's book review list about the circus

Miss Bindergarten Plans A Circus with Kindergarten by Joseph Slate

I've never read a book from this series before, but I see now why they are so popular!  Miss Bindergarten is a dog and her kindergarten class is full of other animals, each with a name that starts with the same letter as the animal that they are (Ally Alligator, for example).  In this book the class plans a circus, and each student contributes something different to the show.  There is alphabet learning, lots of colors and shapes to look at, and a variety of circus acts to enjoy looking at.  My preschooler, who is very interested in the world of kindergarten, especially enjoyed this selection.

Circus Caps for Sale, part of children's book review list about the circus

Circus Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

The peddler is back!  I have probably read Caps for Sale several hundred times-- it is one of our all time favorites, but I had no idea that there was a companion book!  In this book, the peddler goes to town to sell his caps but the town is quiet; everyone has gone to see the circus that has come to town.  Pezzo (we finally learn the peddler's name) becomes sad when a circus elephant steals all his caps, but the circus performers gather them up and realize that balancing them all upon one's head is actually quite difficult!  Pezzo is asked to perform in the circus, the crowd goes wild, and he sells all his caps.  The story is a truly delightful tale, consistent with the tone and charm of the original.  My girls loved seeing a little bit more of the peddler's world.  The book would be great for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary aged children.

Harold's Circus, part of children's book review list about the circus

Harold's Circus by Crockett Johnson

Harold draws himself performing in a circus.  He walks a tight rope, rides bareback on a horse, shoots himself out of a canon, tames a lion and more!  This installment of the Harold and the Purple Crayon series is great and showcases so many wonderful circus acts.  Like the other books in the series, this one is appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers.  Simple and charming!

You See A Circus, I See..., part of children's book review list about the circus

You See A Circus, I See...  by Mike Downs

This story looks at the circus from a completely different perspective, and my girls loved it.  The story is told from the point of view of a young boy, the ringmaster of a circus.  He knows all the performers, so he describes his relationships to them.  For example, we may see a strong man, but the boy sees his uncle who is a gentle giant and lets the boy win when they play wrestle.  This was a great exercise in seeing things from another persons point-of-view, and also gave us an opportunity to talk about how the circus performers travel together, are often made up of family members, and get to know one another well.  Preschoolers and elementary aged children would enjoy this book.

Sidewalk Circus, part of children's book review list about the circus

Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes

Here is another book that provides a different perspective of a circus.  A young girl sitting at a bus stop watches as some workers prepare for a circus across the street.  Her imagination goes wild, and she imagines that the workers, along with some neighboring business people, are already a part of the show.  For example, a construction worker walking across a steel beam becomes a tightrope walker.  She imagines that a butcher hauling a large cut of meat is a strong man.  There are no words in the story, so it took a while for us to figure what exactly was happening but once we did Lena enjoyed this book.  The illustrations are soft and almost dream-like, and are well-suited for this kind of tale.  Maggie couldn't quite understand the nuances of this book, so I recommed it for preschoolers and up.

Circus by Lois Ehlert, part of children's book review list about the circus

Circus by Lois Ehlert

This book is so beautiful and visually stimultating!  Ehlert uses bright, vibrant colors set against a solid black background to make her pictures pop!  The story itself is nothing remarkable-- it lists and describes several circus acts.  The illustrations, however, make this book memorable.  Because of its bright colors and high contrast, this book would be perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  We loved it!

The Circus Ship, part of children's book review list about the circus

The Circus Ship by Chris van Dusen

I have mixed feelings about this book.  The story is funny and cute-- a circus ship sinks the animals swim to a nearby island where the residents learn to love them.  Then the mean, cruel circus owner comes back to claim the animals, but they hide and he leaves empty handed.  I also loved the illustrations which are crisp and vivid, and are done in sort of a cartoony style.  What I didn't like was that the circus owner was portrayed as mean and cruel, and that the animals were saved from a terrible fate by escaping from the circus.  It would make it hard to take my kids to enjoy the circus if they felt that way about the animals performing.  And of course, there are some legitimate questions that one can ask about how circus animals are treated.  It's not something that I want my toddler and preschooler to be worrying about, though.

If I Ran the Circus, part of children's book review list about the circus

If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss

Oy, imagine what happens when you combine the already wild acts of a circus with the imagination and whimsy of Dr. Seuss!  A little boy imagines what his own circus, the Circus McGurkis, set up in an abandoned lot, will be like.  Of course it is absolutely crazy!  This book is typical Dr. Seuss, and we love it!  The animals are wacky, the performers are amazing, and the circus acts are beyond belief.  Like most Dr. Seuss, this one is long, and your toddlers and young preschoolers may not be able to sit through it all.

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Cutting Tiny Bites: Books About the Circus
Books About the Circus
Children's book list about the circus. Reviews of each. Choices for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary aged children.
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