Mike Downs, author
Mike Downs has written several books for children including Pig Giggles (Chronicle Books) and The Noisy Airplane (Tricycle Press). Mike lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with his family.
Read more about Mike.
Anik McGrory, illustrator
Anik McGrory has illustrated several children's books including Animals Asleep (Houghton Mifflin) and The Monty Books series (Candlewick Press). Anik lives in Westchester County, New York, with her family.
Read more about Anik.
- Coming soon!
In this intriguingly original and elegantly rendered story, a boy acrobat in a traveling circus introduces two young visitors to the real people behind the glamorous personae. "You see trapeze artists," he tells the children, as they gaze in wonder at two tiny figures twirling high above them. "Two acrobats in snazzy tights/Soar overhead while chased by lights." Turning the page, readers learn that when the boy looks at the pair, "I see my parents/.../when we're off to have some fun,/They still make sure my homework's done." In one of her many fluid, delicately washed watercolors, McGrory (Mouton's Impossible Dream) shows the boy and his mother taking a break from aerial work and huddling over an assignment; although the pair faces away from the audience, their demeanor will seem instantly familiar--they could as easily be sitting at a kitchen table instead of casually balanced on a trapeze. As Downs (Pig Giggles and Rabbit Rhymes) points out similar examples--the raucous clown is a bookworm, the hulking strongman doubles as the narrator's playful, beloved uncle--his rhymes don't always fly through the air with the greatest of ease. But no matter: McGrory's illustrations eloquently express both the exoticism of life "beneath a three-ringed dome," and the cozy, if offbeat, domesticity of the backstage world.
Making the point that circus performers are people too, a lad introduces two young visitors to several associates, including the strongman, the lion tamer, a juggler, and two trapeze artists--who are also his uncle, his tutor, his best friend, and his parents, respectively. And the guide himself? He's also part of the show! Downs writes adequate if not sparkling verse ("It's fun to be an acrobat, / But I work hard to do my act. / I have to practice hours each day / to ride my horse this special way"), which is considerably heightened by McGrory's splashy scenes of exciting performances and excited spectators against a big top background. Pair this with similar behind-the-scenes tours, such as Andrew Clements' Circus Family Dog (2000), or Ralph Fletcher's Circus Surprise (2001).
School Library Journal
Step right up! A young boy introduces readers to both the stars of the circus and the members of his extended family. "You see a strong man./Solid as stone, strong as a bear,/Muscles bulging everywhere.../I see my uncle./He picks up with just once arm/And tells me I'm his lucky charm." The pictures are great fun as the boy stands triumphantly on his uncle's vanquished form or when he surprises his not-so-fearless teacher who doubles as the lion tamer. McGrory's watercolors delight with shadowy washes of the audience behind the lively scenes in the spotlight and amusing details everywhere. Team this up with Paul Fleischman's Sidewalk Circus (Candlewick) and Crockett Johnson's Harold's Circus (HarperCollins) for the Greatest Show, er story hour, on Earth!
Page count: 32
9 x 9