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Circle

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Circle Book Poster Image
Circle faces fear of the dark and the other in cute tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Reinforces the names of the three shapes for very young readers. 

Positive Messages

You may be inclined to fear those you don't know or haven't seen before. Don't assume someone we don't know or can't see is bad or threatening. Facing your fears can make you stronger. Sometimes it can seem like you're mad at someone when really you're just worried about that person's safety. It's good to apologize when you've said something unkind that you didn't really mean. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Circle is upbeat, brave, and watches out for her friends. She apologizes after she's said something hurtful she didn't really mean. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Circle is the final volume of a funny shapes trilogy by the team of author Mac Barnett and illustrator Jon Klassen. Offbeat and inventive like the previous books, Square and Triangle, Circle brings all three friends together to play a hiding game in which Triangle goes behind a waterfall into a dark cave, and Circle must rescue him. The story deals with fear of danger and fear of the unknown -- including an unknown, unseen individual. There's also a subtle message about not assuming someone you don't know is bad and someone to fear.

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What's the story?

CIRCLE suggests a hide-and-seek game near her waterfall and tells her friends, Triangle and Square, that one rule is that you can't go behind the waterfall, because it's dark there. She closes her eyes and counts to 10, and when she opens them, Square is just standing there and tells Circle that Triangle went behind the waterfall. Circle goes in to search for him and ends up in a big dark cave, where she finds Triangle but also sees another pair of eyes poking out of the darkness. The two shape friends  run away in fear, but once outside, Circle wonders, "You know ... that shape in the dark might not have been bad. It might have been a good shape. We just could not see it." 

Is it any good?

This quirky friendship story uses minimalist art and relatable text to deliver a subtle message about our fear of the other. It may take repeated readings to zero in on what the author is getting at, but Circle works on many levels for kids. It's a story about facing fears, breaking rules, caring for and worrying about our friends. And it ponders why we assume someone we don't know or can't see is bad or threatening.

Jon Klassen's art is minimalist and intriguing, with the three cute shape characters in a mysterious earth-toned landscape, and several pages featuring just pairs of eyes popping out of a solid black background. It invites readers to fill in the bodies and actions that go with the pairs of eyes that are staring at -- and away from -- each other. Circle is offbeat, original, and fun. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how taking risks and overcoming fear is shown in Circle. Are you afraid of the dark? What would make you feel safe in the darkness? 

  • Circle tries to imagine what shape was in the cave. What shape do you think was in there? A shape like one of the three of them, or a different shape altogether? Or might it have been the shape of an animal or a human? 

  • Circle gets mad when Triangle breaks the rules, and she calls Triangle a bad friend, then apologizes, saying, "You are a good friend. You just made us worried." How can being worried make someone upset? How important is it to say you're sorry after you've said something hurtful? 

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