Circus Girl


Overcoming barriers to friendship.

It was late spring. I remember the day very well. Strange sounds coming from outside woke me earlier than usual. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window. A colorful caravan of carriages was passing by. I spelled out the letters painted on the side -- C-I-R-C-U-S.

The next day, the teacher introduced a new girl to the class. She would be...
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Overcoming barriers to friendship.

It was late spring. I remember the day very well. Strange sounds coming from outside woke me earlier than usual. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window. A colorful caravan of carriages was passing by. I spelled out the letters painted on the side -- C-I-R-C-U-S.

The next day, the teacher introduced a new girl to the class. She would be going to school with them while the circus was in town. Her presence was exciting to all the children, but it was her kindness that opened doors for the two boys who sat nearest to her, and they began an unlikely friendship.

In his highly expressive paintings, Tomek Bogacki provides an evocative glimpse into his childhood in Poland.

When a new girl comes to school while the circus is in town, she helps two classmates become friends.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This book wows readers with a knockout cover image, a blurry, life-size portrait of an auburn-haired girl. The girl gazes at her audience with confident sky-blue eyes and a Mona Lisa smile; trapeze artists perform in the background. The anticipation builds from there, as an old-fashioned wooden caravan chugs into town. "The next day, our teacher brought a new girl to our classroom," says the boy narrator. "I am sure the teacher told us her name, but we just called her Circus Girl." The newcomer sits next to Tim, the least popular child in the class, and the narrator, in trying to win the girl's favor, becomes Tim's friend, too. The three children play together and enjoy the Big Top before Circus Girl must leave. With a nostalgic feel and a backdrop of winding streets similar to his My First Garden, Bogacki once again divides his spreads into rectangular panels with soft edges and rounded corners juxtaposing scenes of the school, village and tent. His kaleidoscopic, out-of-focus compositions recall Chagall canvases. Circus Girl wears a red-and-yellow outfit that blazes against the gray-green, putty-yellow and clay-brown palette, and enhances her aura of mystery and benevolence. This quiet story of friendship may not emphasize thrilling three-ring excitement, but the pictorial sequences capture the ethereal magic of a carnival, personified in an intriguing stranger. Ages 4-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
When the circus comes to town, all of the children except Tim are excited. Tim is a small boy who keeps to himself and never plays with the others after school, but goes straight home every day. When Circus Girl joins Tim's class, everyone is very excited, except Tim. Circus Girl is happy to share her life in the circus and takes kids back stage to see the rehearsals at the circus. But when Circus Girl realizes that people are not very nice to Tim, her behavior teaches a lesson in tolerance. With Circus Girl's help, aboy at school realizes that Tim has an interesting hobby and is a lot of fun to play with. When Circus Girl goes on to the next town, the two boys know that if it had not been for Circus Girl, they would never have become such good friends. 2001, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, $17.00. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Danielle Williams
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Bogacki shares a gentle tale of a young boy's experience when the circus comes to town. The old-world charm generated by the soft images of his painted illustrations permeates this simple story of friendship. When a young member of the visiting troupe attends school, her kindness to one of the students sets an example for the narrator and readers alike. Through a simple gesture, she befriends the shy, quiet boy whom nobody else notices. Following her lead, the narrator befriends him as well, and the two remain friends long after the show leaves town. Circus Girl is not just a nice person with an interesting life; she is truly a larger-than-life character. As in a three-ring circus, several events in this story are happening at once. On one spread, the tent goes up, children watch from behind a fence, Circus Girl is seen outside her caravan, and the circus train can be seen parked on a quiet street. Subdued, hazy colors are the perfect choice for this story set in a small town in times past. This oversized picture book reflects the thrill felt by children when a "caravan of carriages" with C-I-R-C-U-S spelled out on the side came to town, and it is a lovely story about friendship as well.-Piper L. Nyman, Fairfield/Suisun Community Library, Fairfield, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bogacki's simple, visual reminiscence about the beginnings of a boyhood friendship is, like his earlier picture-book memoir My First Garden (2000), nuanced and subtle. The first-person narrator recalls a marvelous week from childhood: a circus caravan comes to his small town, bringing a temporary classmate, the young acrobat that he remembers only as Circus Girl. The Circus Girl befriends both the narrator and Tim, "the smallest one in the class," whose isolation from his classmates has been the one thing that anyone knew about him. Circus Girl's impressive ability to balance while standing on an elephant and on a pony matches the seemingly easy grace with which she makes friends for herself and in the process creates friendship between the two boys. Expressive, gently hued drawings in what could be pastel and colored pencil recreate the moments in the narrative in irregularly shaped frames across each two-page opening. The frames, in soft focus as if remembered across time and distance, fill the space, each an impressionistic glimpse through a window of memory. Young readers will need a measure of patience to mine the depths of this quiet tale, but multiple readings will turn up new observations. Some will find it frustrating that the eponymous character remains nameless in the narrator's retelling-she serves only as the catalyst for the friendship between the narrator and Tim. Still, her brief sojourn in the boys' lives has a lasting effect. Understated and touching. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374312916
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/6/2001
  • Series: Frances Foster Bks.
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Lexile: AD460L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Tomek Bogacki is an internationally recognized author and illustrator of books for children, including the Cat and Mouse books and My First Garden. He lives in New York City.
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