Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder


As a boy, Alexander 'Sandy' Calder was always fiddling with odds and ends, making objects for friends. When he got older and became an artist, his fiddling led him to create wire sculptures. One day, Sandy made a lion. Next came a lion cage. Before he knew it, he had an entire circus and was traveling between Paris and New York performing a brand-new kind of art for amazed audiences.

This is the story of Sandy's Circus, as told by Tanya Lee Stone with Boris Kulikov's spectacular...

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As a boy, Alexander 'Sandy' Calder was always fiddling with odds and ends, making objects for friends. When he got older and became an artist, his fiddling led him to create wire sculptures. One day, Sandy made a lion. Next came a lion cage. Before he knew it, he had an entire circus and was traveling between Paris and New York performing a brand-new kind of art for amazed audiences.

This is the story of Sandy's Circus, as told by Tanya Lee Stone with Boris Kulikov's spectacular and innovative illustrations. Calder's original circus is on permanent display at the Whitney Museum in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Abby McGanney Nolan
Stone's text is a lovely distillation of the evolution of Calder's magnificent miniature circus (which he carried around in five suitcases for performances), and Kulikov's illustrations are an amazing feat of their own.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Stone (Elizabeth Leads the Way) gives top billing to a minor but well-chosen aspect of Alexander (Sandy) Calder's distinguished career in a biography that kids can easily connect with. Her Sandy has not yet invented the mobile, but has combined a documented love of making things with a two-week stint drawing the Ringling Brothers circus for a New York paper: the next year, 1926, in Paris, his circus of miniature moveable performers is born. The author gracefully communicates the artist's resourcefulness and sense of play: "His huge hands worked with tiny pieces of wire, cork, cloth, buttons, yarn.... He twisted and shaped and curled and cut and curved until... Sandy was ready to put on a big-top circus show!" Kulikov (Fartiste) experiments with proportion and scale. Elements are often shown in black-and-white, as if sketched out and superimposed on full-color paintings. Spreads bring readers eye to eye with diminutive circus actors as Calder's gargantuan-seeming hands reach out from the shadows to control them. A classical muse, paint palette in hand, floats over scenes of a giant, suitcase-toting Calder tromping between the shrunken black-and-white skylines of Paris and New York City. Suggestive of Calder's whimsy. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
Stone's lively presentation of the work of Alexander Calder begins "There once was an artist named Alexander Calder. Only he didn't call himself Alexander. And he didn't call the things he made art." The rest of this biography expands on Calder's unique approach to sculpture that evolved from an early project in Paris. Hired as an artist to sketch Ringling's Circus, Calder decided to recreate the images using wire; in exhibits in Paris and the U.S., he literally played with these figures. While his later work got more abstract, he never lost the vibrancy of his early work. Kulikov's illustrations echo Calder's highly individual approach, mixing black line drawings that reflect his wire work with fanciful colored drawings. Children are likely to be attracted by the idea of the circus and understanding of the way in which Calder's later work celebrates the close and joyous relationship between play and art. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4

What child-or adult-is not intrigued by a mobile: moving, swaying, changing in light and space as it intrigues and delights. Calder's name is nearly synonymous with these creations, and Stone and Kulikov spin out a fast-moving tale that is in keeping with their high-energy subject. From childhood, Sandy produced an array of objects for friends and family from found materials. As an adult, when hired to draw pictures of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, he took the project one step further, bringing the circus to life with bits of wire, cork, buttons, yarns, and string. Eventually, his creations filled five suitcases, and the performances included chariot races; bucking broncos; and high-wire acts that flipped, leaped, and danced in the air. Audiences loved it. Stone depicts Calder as a man utterly involved in his work, and Kulikov strengthens the premise using two differing styles of illustration-often on the same page. He portrays Calder in a Gulliver-like mode: stepping between New York and Paris in giant strides, forming his wire characters with hands that dominate an entire spread, and sprawling happily across the floor as part of the circus performance. These depictions, in full robust colors, often show Calder in childlike poses, interacting with the wire animals, oblivious to an artist muse who floats above him. In contrast, gray-shaded drawings with bold black lines sometimes crowd into the page, seemingly portraying the working "stuff" of Calder's bursting imagination: a jumbled mixture of tools and ideas that formed his extraordinary artistic creations.-Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA

Kirkus Reviews
Examining Calder's childhood and young adulthood, Stone focuses on his interest in craft and machinery. The child of artists, an engineering graduate and a tinkerer from the get-go, Sandy made toys, jewelry and even quick-study wire portraits for friends encountered on Parisian streets. His miniature circus, constructed of wire, cork and other found objects, grew to fill five suitcases that trundled between New York and Paris for engrossing, kinetic performances. The lively text shines with apt details. Quotes peppering the narrative, though unattributed specifically, seem carefully interpolated. "People said: 'He has discovered, in playing, a new world.' His art 'has the force of the ocean.' " Kulikov's mixed-media illustrations anchor black-and-white sketches (portraying Calder's processes, tools and sources of inspiration) within full-color spreads that playfully celebrate the text. Sandy, shouldering a thick lariat of wire, bicycles through a 1920s Paris teeming with canvas-schlepping artists. His elegant, ever-present laurel-wreathed muse hovers nearby, with a palette (or, in one spread, lugging some of those suitcases). Spritely, noteworthy and nicely timed to Calder's 110th birthday. (author's note, source note) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670062683
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 9/4/2008
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 238,413
  • Age range: 6 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Tanya Lee Stone has written many biographies for young readers. She lives in Burlington, Vermont.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This book is fantastic! I am an art teacher and used it to introduce a unit on Calder. The kids got sucked in right away.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    enjoyable bio of Alexander "Sandy" Calder for young kids

    Used this book to introduce Calder as one of our monthly artists. The kids (3-5 years old) enjoyed listening to the story and after we did projects with pipe cleaners.

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