cover image SONG OF THE CIRCUS


Lois Duncan, , illus. by Meg Cundiff. . Philomel, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23397-5

Thriller-writer Duncan, whose picture book I Walk at Night described a cat's nocturnal prowlings, raises a few hairs (not too many) in this high-spirited circus romp. Cartwheeling along to a familiar rhythm, hyperbolic verses introduce a trapeze artist and strongman, a little clown named Bop and his petite friend Gisselda, "who learned to crawl/ On canvas tarps, and to toss a ball/ To a Fat Baboon, and who took her naps/ On tattooed shoulders and spangled laps./ For she is a Child of the Circus." Suddenly, the narrative veers in a dangerous direction: "Now/ don't get scared,/ but—you see that cage?" A turn of the page reveals a grouchy tiger "so/ mean and wild / That he dreams of eating a Circus Child!" When a flat tire sends the bicycle clowns flying into midair, they set off a wild chain of events that ends with an elephant shattering the tiger's cage. The big cat races straight for Gisselda, "exactly the child/ that he longed to eat!" Bop interferes, and he and Gisselda bravely avert the threat, earning wild cheers; the audience "didn't know/ That the act wasn't part/ of the normal show." In a style that recalls Marjorie Priceman's work, Cundiff (Stoneheart) paints in a wild carnival palette. Her extravagant costumes and distorted sizes and shapes intensify the larger-than-life proportions of this big-top tale. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)