My Bike by Byron Barton (InfoSoup)
Tom rides his bicycle to work each day. On the way, he passes all sorts of other vehicles like cars, buses, and trucks. As he gets closer to work, he passes lots of people. Then he passes monkeys, acrobats, tigers, lions and elephants! Once he reaches the tent where he works, he changes into his costume and puts on his makeup. He heads into the circus ring as a clown, ready to do his act. Once he’s up on the tightrope, he hops aboard another mode of transportation, a unicycle.
This jolly picture book will appeal to fans of transportation books and circuses alike. Barton has written other classic titles in this series like My Car and My Bus. The book reviews the various parts of a bicycle and then through very simple sentences and words eventually reveals Tom’s job to the readers. The book is straight forward but cleverly done so that readers will wonder what his job is all along his route to work. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.
Just as with the text, the illustrations are simple too. Done in Photoshop, the art is clean and bold, the colors bright and cheery. The transformation into a clown in handled well and Tom never turns creepy on the reader, instead keeping his friendly demeanor and appearance throughout. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.
The simplicity of both the text and the illustrations make this a great pick for smaller children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Grandpa Ephraim has been telling Micah stories of Circus Mirandus since he was a small child. It is the story of a circus that is so magical that adults cannot find it, only children who need to. You can’t get in without a ticket, but you never know what form that ticket will take. Once inside, you get to see acts like a flying birdwoman and a man who creates entire worlds in seconds. But now Grandpa Ephraim is sick and probably dying. Micah’s great-aunt Gertrudis has arrived to take care of both of them and that means no disturbing his grandfather and no talk of magic at all. When a talking and thinking parrot appears, Micah knows that the circus is real and then finds out that the most powerful man at the circus promised his grandfather a miracle that his grandfather saved. Now Micah knows exactly how to save his grandfather. He has to find the circus and use that miracle to stop him from dying and he has to do it quickly!
Beasley has written a terrific read one that nods to books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the way that an entire magical world is placed adjacent to our own, one that is just close enough to glimpse at times. She has also created a book which while it pays homage to classic children’s literature also modernizes it and mixes in magic too. The story arc works particularly well here, built on a strong tale that is filled with marvelous and amazing creatures and beings. The result is a book that is very readable and one where you aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen next, in the best possible way.
Micah is a very likable protagonist. He struggles to make friends and when he does their friendship takes time to grow. It feels very organic and the two of them are not natural friends who see the world the same way. Instead it is much more like making a real friend where it is the willingness to be friends that makes a huge difference and a decision to stop arguing when you don’t agree. It is these parts of the book that are so realistic, where the relationships shine, that make the book as strong as it is. Without these clever human elements the book would be too frothy and light. These keep it grounded and real.
A magical book filled with real people alongside the mystical ones, this book for young readers will be enjoyed almost as much as a visit to Circus Mirandus itself. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.