Picture Book Review: Circus Stories


Olivia saves the circus by Ian Falconer

Olivia the pig tells her class about how she saved the circus when all the performers got ear infections. She was a funny clown, a fierce lion tamer, a graceful tightrope walker, and a frustrated dog trainer. When her teacher asks if the story is all true, she replies “pretty all true.” Olivia is so matter of fact about her imagination that she could be called a no-nonsense daydreamer, if such a thing exists. The illustrations in this book are unique-mostly black and white with some red and pink accents for Olivia’s clothing and accessories.

The World’s Greatest Elephant by Ralph Heller; illustrated by Ted Lewin

A baby boy named Bram and a baby elephant named Modoc are born on the same day and become inseparable in this inspiring true story. The pair begins to perform when Bram is still a boy. Then, the circus is sold and it looks like they will be separated. Bram sneaks onto the ship and stays below with the elephants in an attempt to stay with his best friend. Despite shipwrecks, and heartless circus owners, the two manage to find each other at the end. This story speaks about the treatment of circus performers and the relationship between humans and animals. Due to violence, this book may not be appropriate for very young children.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

When a circus ship crashes off the coast of Maine, the animals on board swim to a nearby island. At first, the islanders are alarmed and scared of the exotic animals, but the tiger saves a little girl from a burning shed, the animals and Mainers begin to enjoy living together on the island. There’s only one problem: the mean circus director is coming back for his animals. Will the islanders be able to successfully hide their new friends from the circus boss? This fun, rhyming tale is actually based on a real story from the early 1800s, although many of the animals and people on the Royal Tar, which crashed on its way up the coast to Portland, did not survive. The outcome of The Circus Ship is much more lighthearted and kids and adults will love to pour over the dynamic, detailed illustrations.


I’m off to the circus later this afternoon.  Be sure to check in tomorrow to see some pictures 🙂



Filed under picture book review

3 responses to “Picture Book Review: Circus Stories

  1. Pingback: The Big Top: A Circus Unit « Schoolmarm Ohio

  2. Hi Abby,
    I added your reviews to my blog about Circus books. Thank you for the reviews and resources. They are terrific!

  3. Pingback: My first day at the circus | The Lupine Librarian

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