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Parents' Guide to

The Circus Ship

By Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 5+

Odd shipwreck tale comes on a little strong.

The Circus Ship Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 3+

Based on 10 parent reviews

age 2+

Great book for kids who like animals

We bought this for our five year old, and while he enjoys it, our 2 year absolutely loves it. He loves to point out and name the animals (if only we knew the right name for the horned deer in the menagerie). It’s so well written and illustrated that the adults don’t mind reading it 1-2 times a day over the weeks we’ve owned it. Even our 10 year old will pay attention while we read it. I highly recommend this book. It’s one of the best we’ve found recently.
age 4+

Not violent at all!

My kids love Chris Van Dusen books and I love reading them aloud. They have a great rhythm to them. I disagree with the review calling this book too violent. The beginning of the books does not reference drowning at all. No, the animals are not saved by the circus owner, but they swim to shore. Also the child being in a fire is obviously illustrated to reference a ring of fire like you'd see the tigers jump through at the circus. My kids were not scared at all by this book. The message of the book is seeing the good in the animals and how the townsfolk go on to protect them.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (10 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

There’s no shortage of bad guys in children’s stories, of course, but Mr. Paine is a little over the top in a story that feels contrived. Young kids -- for whom, typically, a circus is a source of delight rather than disgust -- may very well be taken aback by the sheer awfulness of this frightening grown-up bully. He hurls himself about the story, red-faced and corpulent, overwhelming the lighthearted touches. The rhyming text moves along easily enough, but the big twists in the plot -- the heroic tiger, and the sudden return of Mr. Paine -- are dispatched in a rush.
The idea of these strange animals stumbling ashore in 19th-century Maine is intrinsically fun, and Van Dusen offers some delightful scenes. One of the best moments is a simple hidden pictures-style two-page spread in which the 15 circus animals are disguised around the town: a camel as a haystack, an ostrich as a tree, and so on. Mr. Paine scratches his head in frustration, but kids will delight in finding each animal.

So brightly colored they veer toward gaudy, the best illustrations invite kids to explore the ways the circus animals have become part of village life.

Book Details

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