Sunday, November 22, 2009


By Chris Van Dusen
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN 978-0-7636-3090-4

FROM THE FLAP: When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the circus animals must stagger to the shore of a small island. At first the townspeople view them with suspicion, but it’s not long before locals and animals are sharing the island in harmony.

When the greedy circus owner returns, the townsfolk and the circus refugees come up with a delightfully original way to outsmart the bloated blowhard, exacting hilarious revenge in the process.

With rhymed text and brilliantly caricatured illustrations that evoke the early nineteenth century, Chris Van Dusen has crafted a stunning picture book about the unique bonds of friendship and community.

THEY CAME IN TWOS (Verbal/Linguistic)

Take twelve pairs of rhyming words from the text. Write each word on an index card. Pass out a card to each student. Say a rhyming word from the same family and ask the students who have words from that same family to come to the front of the room. As a class brainstorm as many words as possible that rhyme with those words.


As a class, talk about how each animal is hidden by the townspeople. Brainstorm different ways each animal could camouflage itself in varying realistic and fantastic environments. Have each student choose an animal and draw a picture of it camouflaged in a realistic or fantastic setting.


There are some great circus songs you can sing with your class at All of the lyrics are set to well known tunes such as Mary Had a Little Lamb or I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.


Circuses usually showcase tightrope walkers. Put a balance beam or a two by four in the middle of the class rug. Have a few students pretend to be hungry crocodiles swimming around the rug waiting to gobble up any students who fall off the tightrope into the water.


This book has a distinct beginning, middle and end and has a large list of characters. So, it’s great for Reader’s Theater. Talk about the beginning when the boat crashes, the middle when the animals cause havoc and the Tiger saves Emma Rose, and the end when the townspeople and the animals work together to trick the circus owner. Give students the roles of the animals, the circus owner, the captain, Emma Rose, Little Red and the townspeople and have them reenact the book. Don't forget to have the animals camouflage themselves in the classroom!


-Circus by Lois Ehlert
-If I Ran The Circus by Dr. Seuss
-Last Night I Dreamed a Circus by Maya Gottfried
-Miss Bindergarten Plans a Circus with Kindergarten by Joseph Slate
-Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing By April Jones Prince

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