cover image Sophie the Circus Princess

Sophie the Circus Princess

Stig Claesson. Simon & Schuster, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-671-87008-9

When a boy befriends his grandfather's eccentric older neighbor, he discovers her astonishing secrets: she was once a circus performer (``the world's most beautiful horseback rider'') and she had been wooed and won by a handsome Chicago gangster who passed himself off as ``the Prince of Pomerania.'' While Sophie can no longer turn somersaults, her amazing claims are supported to some extent by her ability to balance herself on one leg, on the back of a cow. When a debonair stranger appears at Sophie's door one day, the youngster immediately recognizes him as ``the false Prince of Pomerania'' (returning at last from an extended prison sentence for also impersonating ``a doge of Venice, a Romanian movie star, and a British stunt flier''). Henstra's stocky, occasionally cartoonish ink-and-watercolor illustrations impart a stylish whimsy to the outlandish plot; yet despite its humorous overtones, Claessen's text communicates a fondness for Sophie and her elegant suitor. Author and artist celebrate the bonds of an intergenerational friendship without undue sentiment, and with a healthy dollop of imagination. Ages 3-7. (May)