cover image The Greatest Show on Earth

The Greatest Show on Earth

Vivian French, John Prater. Candlewick Press (MA), $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-563-0

Although its circus theme is run-of-the-mill, this book stands out for its strong panel art. In consecutive spreads, clumsy young Harry introduces his big-top family-his trapeze-artist mother and father, his juggling sister, his unicycling grandpa and others. They each try to teach Harry their specialties, but Harry-with an ``Uh-oh!'' or a ``Yikes!''-literally falls flat every time. Harry is relegated to primping the family dog, Wellington, and holding the leash in the center ring for Wellington's ``amazing'' balancing act. A trip-up one night during Wellington's performance lands poor Harry on a skateboard. He rolls along the ground, sails through the air, bounces off a trampoline and lands on a unicycle-thereby discovering the acrobatic abilities he didn't think he had. Prater (``No!'' Said Joe) often breaks his pages into several frames to show continuous action, so that Harry's pratfalls can be viewed in all stages, from initial wobbliness to final ``Ouch!'' Beginners will be able to follow the tale through the animated, unusually expressive watercolor illustrations alone-and nearly everyone will understand the hero's need to find his niche. Ages 3-up. (Aug.)