Secrets of the Cirque Medrano book cover image

Secrets of the Cirque Medrano

  • 1595

By: Elaine Scott

Secrets, intrigue, circus, and Picasso

When her mother dies, Brigitte is sent to live in Paris where she helps her aunt and uncle in their cafe. Her new life seems strange and interesting. When Brigitte befriends Paco, the young circus performer from the Cirque Medrano who poses from the temperamental Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, she is drawn into a web of international intrigue.

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Author & Illustrator Bios:

Elaine Scott, author

Elaine Scott is the author of several books for young readers, including Buried Alive!: How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert; Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time: What the Hubble Saw; and When Is a Planet Not a Planet? The Story of Pluto (Clarion). Elaine lives in Houston, Texas.

Read more about Elaine.

Awards & Honors:

  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

This lively tale, set in 1904, follows 14-year-old Brigitte, whose French mother has died in Warsaw, after which she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Paris. Brigitte is impulsive and lonely. She doesn't see much of Montmartre or Paris itself, for she works long hours serving in the caf. She is fascinated by the Cirque Medrano, a circus pitched in Montmartre, and its jugglers and acrobats, and also by the young Picasso, who hangs out at her aunt's caf with his bande of writers and artists. Scott ties the story of the circus (the source of Picasso's Family of Saltimbanques), the growth of the Russian Secret Police in Paris and the change in Montmartre from village to a vibrant part of the city to Brigitte's adjustment to her new life. The language is sometimes jarringly modern, and there is not a lot of character development, but it places an interesting historical moment within the grasp of middle-schoolers.


Great art often seems to have a story behind it, and Scott has imagined a suspenseful one about the circus acrobats featured in Picasso's Family of Saltambiques. After her mother's death, 14-year-old Brigitte is taken in by her bourgeois aunt Dominique, who runs a Montmartre cafe frequented by Picasso, his friends, and a mysterious Russian diplomat. Discontented with her new life, and thrilled by the attention of a young acrobat, impulsive Brigitte longs to join the circus. She also dreams of solving the mystery behind the disappearance of one of the performers. Many readers will identify with hardworking but unhappy Brigitte, who successfully pursues her circus dream but narrowly escapes from the predicaments her spying creates. An author's note explains a little more about art and intrigue in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century. An agreeable introduction to an unusual political, artistic, and social world.


ISBN: 978-1-57091-712-7

ISBN: 978-1-60734-385-1 PDF
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Ages: 11-14
Page count: 216
5 1/2 x 8 1/4

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