Fleischman, Paul and Kevin Hawkes. 2004. SIDEWALK CIRCUS. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763611077 [Suggested Grade Levels K-2]
A wordless picture book, SIDEWALK CIRCUS is a magnificent mingling of the ordinary with the exciting. The scene is set when a young girl sits down on a bus bench and sees a sign advertising “World-Renowned Garibaldi Circus Coming Soon!” To her delight, a circus of another kind is enacted right before her eager eyes as a construction worker balances across an iron cross-beam, a cook juggles pancakes in her skillet, a painter’s ladder becomes a pair of awkward stilts. Each action is juxtaposed with a sign advertising the same tricks performed by the actual circus, but as the events unfold it is clear that the real circus is taking place on the city sidewalk. Eventually, the girl’s bus arrives and she leaves the impromptu circus behind, but a young boy quickly fills her place on the bench, a squirrel on a wire takes over the construction worker’s role as tight-rope walker, and the circus begins again.
The beautiful acrylic illustrations take the reader through several amazing circus acts as Fleischman and Hawkes utilize full page spreads for each of the performances. Alternating pages contain cutaways to the girl in the “audience” whose face shows her varying emotions from awe to fear to hilarity and keeps the reader feeling the same. In addition to the signs that advertise the acts being performed, shadows are also used in the background. During the flying trapeze, for example, two unbalanced window washer attempt to grab hold of one another as their cart falls from beneath them. Their shadows depict a trapeze artist gracefully catching his partner in midair. The subtlety and visual richness of each page will easily make this a favorite.
Brainstorm everyday events that could become circus acts. Let every child choose an event and draw a picture of it occurring.
After showing the book once, go through it again and invite the children to tell the story as it unfolds on each page.
Other books about the circus:
Ehlert, Lois. CIRCUS. ISBN 0060202521
Falconer, Ian. OLIVIA SAVES THE CIRCUS. ISBN 068982954X
By Erin Miklauz