LAST NIGHT I DREAMED A CIRCUS

Maya Gottfried, Author, Robert Rahway Zakanitch, Illustrator , illus. by Robert Rahway Zakanitch. Knopf $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-82388-6

Gottfried's meditative debut is accompanied by the artwork of fine artist Zakanitch, also a newcomer to children's books. Evocative watercolors of circus folk in full regalia suggest a slow-motion performance. The parade of acrobats and animals begins with the title words, "Last night I dreamed a circus," offset by an image of a man doing a one-handed handstand on horseback. "I spun circles round the stars," the text continues, alongside a woman who grips a rope in her teeth and whirls like a corkscrew. "I twisted in knots" pictures a contortionist in an exotic red-and-white bodysuit. "And I laughed" features a startling, grinning chimpanzee in feather headgear and a dress, hanging from parallel hoops. Zakanitch poses the characters in spangled tights, skin-tight costumes with curlicues and (in one case) a magnificent patterned cape which alludes to Alexandre Benois's and Léon Bakst's costume designs for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The artist enfolds his performers in heavy black or midnight-blue backgrounds, so that they seem at once spotlit and suspended in tar; the trapeze artists are sealed in space, while other performers stand rigidly as though taking a bow. Likewise, Gottfried's placid, unrhymed lines end firmly in periods, arresting the action on each page and building up inertia. These characters don't fly through the air with the greatest of ease, but their fanciful procession plus Zakanitch's extravagant costumes should garner some oohs and aahs. Ages 3-6. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/02/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Library Binding - 1 pages - 978-0-375-92388-3
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