A young white girl who’s unable to go to the circus finds that the circus comes to her.
This story arrives just as the use of wild animals for circus entertainment has come under such scrutiny it’s closed the Greatest Show on Earth. It’s a pity, then, that this lively story with its fresh watercolor illustrations demonstrating expert use of color washes uses circus lions, camels, elephants, monkeys, seals, and a unicycle-riding bear to inhabit the plot’s central action. Emma, the young narrator, wishes to go see the circus, but her white father tells her there is too much farm work to do. The next day, though, Emma is visited by a circus bear riding a unicycle, and the two play in the barn until suppertime. The bear returns the next day with two circus seals playing horns, and they all play together in the barn. Emma’s family (all white), busy with chores (Emma seems to have none), doesn’t notice as each day more and more of the circus shows up to play in the barn. Discovered at last by the family, Emma’s circus gives a performance in the barn especially for them. Although the conversational text is peppered with the girl’s protestations that she’s not lying, allowing ample opportunity for the illustrations to turn this into an extended fantasy, they play it straight.
While lively in both text and illustration, this book’s unfortunate and unexamined acceptance of animal circus acts makes it obsolete.(Picture book. 4-8)