A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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 peeking out of the darkness. The two shape friends run away in fear, but once they're 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. She calls Triangle a bad friend, and 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?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love picture books and books about art
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.