Extraordinary Jane

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Extraordinary Jane Book Poster Image
Dog gains self-acceptance in visually stunning circus story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Lots of opportunities for discussions about emotions and acceptance. What feels hard for us? What do we accept about ourselves? Some families might also want to talk about animals in circuses. These are story animals, but what about real ones?

Positive Messages

You don't have to do anything extraordinary to be loved, valued, and cherished.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jane the dog tries and fails repeatedly at being a stunt animal, but she's a really good dog -- she sits up and begs! And she's a loyal friend. The Ringmaster also models acceptance, accepting her for being a sweet, furry pup.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Extraordinary Jane, by debut author/illustrator Hannah E. Harrison, is a young, sweet, visually stunning tale of self-acceptance. Harrison has a background as a painter and an animal portraitist and captures all the fun of the circus setting. The gentle message of self-acceptance is delivered with three-ring fanfare.

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What's the story?

Jane's an ordinary dog in an extraordinary world -- the circus! -- where her mom rides bareback, her dad effortlessly lifts elephants, and her brothers are shot out of cannons. When Jane tries to find her own special talent, disaster ensues. But by the end of the story, she's loved and celebrated by the Ringmaster and the rest of her circus family for her own simple qualities as a warm and loving pup.

Is it any good?

There's a lot that's extraordinary about EXTRAORDINARY JANE. Though the book's a debut for author/illustrator Hannah E. Harrison, she clearly has command of the picture-book craft. The language, though spare, is exceedingly clever: "her music lacked musicality... her paintings pizzazz." Harrison's paintings, on the other hand, have plenty of pizzazz and exploit the visual possibilities of the circus. She first pictures the dizzying heights of the trapeze from below and then, terrifyingly, from above. There's also lots of turn-the-page fun -- for instance, a quick reference to "the whole balancing ball disaster" followed by a wordless spread of animals recuperating, banged-up in bandages. Also, the book opens with circus ballyhoo -- an inviting spread of colorful posters.

In the end, Jane proves her worth simply by being a sweet, furry, lovable pup who fetches the Ringmaster's hat and then sits up and begs. Young readers will warm both to Jane and her very extraordinary world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about feeling ordinary. Do you ever compare yourself with others and feel bad that you can't do what they do?

  • Does it sometimes seem that people on TV and in the movies can do more things than you can? When you hear about celebrities, do you ever feel that you're not as good as they are?

  • What do you do well? Why do other people like you? List everything you can think of.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and animal stories

Themes & Topics

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