Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 28 Nov 2019

Circus Girl by Jana Novotny Hunter, illustrated by Joaquin Camp

This charming picture book is one for all of you who, like me as a child, harboured the secret, romantic desire to join the circus. The illustrations are boldly coloured throughout with plenty of detail to consider and to speculate about.  

I was immediately drawn to the intriguing cover that shows a young girl balancing books on each arm with the crowd cheering her on from behind. When I looked more closely, I noticed that there were books about Tumbling and Juggling on the piles. This seemed like my ideal of combining my love of books with some very basic circus skills.

Once the story begins, we learn that the girl is called Sky and that she is lying in her bed dreaming about the circus, whilst a voice off in a green speech bubble repeatedly calls her to hurry up. It seems that she has lots on her mind and at first I wasn’t sure if she was just being very imaginative as she thought longingly about performing all kinds of acrobatic feats in the big top with a wide range of other people (including a wheelchair user):

She dreams of red,

She dreams of blue,

She dreams of gold

All the colours

Of the circus!

And Sky is the juggler!

The cries from afar become more urgent and so she eventually gets up. We then realise that she actually lives in a caravan and seems to be a member of a circus family! Once breakfast is over Sky hurries with evident enthusiasm to the school caravan on the circus site:

 ‘Late for breakfast, but not for school’.

On the last double page spread we see her performing in the circus after school – what a perfect well rounded and fulfilling life she leads where her education is about formal learning from books plus skills learnt outside the classroom. I liked the way in which the strong message comes across that all learning is important, but needs to be well balanced with what family life can offer. This is essential reading for people at The Department of Education methinks, as well as inspiring lots of interesting discussion with children about different kinds of families and potential careers. This is another triumph from Childs Play International Publishers who know how to always keep the child at the centre of an engaging story. 

Strongly recommended. 

 Karen Argent

November 2019