cover image Emeline at the Circus

Emeline at the Circus

Marjorie Priceman. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-679-87685-4

Step right up to one of Priceman's (Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin; Dancin' in the Kitchen) most intriguing picture books. Ms. Splinter leads her second-grade class on a field trip to the circus for what she calls a ""great learning experience."" Ms. Splinter might as well be Ms. Stickler, for all the rules she imposes: ""Sit up straight. No shouting. No fidgeting. No standing on the seats. No wandering off."" Fortunately, Emeline can't resist breaking the rules, and wanders off to buy a bag of peanuts, which tempts an elephant to lift her and her snack right into the center ring. While Ms. Splinter, her nose buried in books, recites facts about the various animals and the history of circus acts, Emeline dons a clown outfit, rides horseback and is saved by the strongman from the clutches of a hippo. When Emeline performs a ""splendid stunt"" on the trapeze, she finally catches the eye of her stunned teacher just before returning safely to her seat. Kids will love the playful depiction of the two parallel experiences. Unwittingly, Ms. Splinter recites each of her dreary lessons in response to one of Emeline's wild adventures in the ring (though the teacher's running commentary isn't really so dreary; it's chock-full of interesting tidbits and some dry humor). Priceman's vivacious ink-and-watercolor paintings convey all the kinetic excitement of the Big Top as viewed from both in the ring and in the stands--the second graders, oblivious to their teacher, react to Emeline's antics with appropriate facial expressions in oval-shaped vignettes. Each of Priceman's colorful scenes of controlled chaos--as animals and performers in all manner of glitzy costume tumble, prance and parade about-- attests to why this is called the greatest show on earth. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)