The Circus Ship…and Some Unexpected Visitors

Recently we went to one of my all time favorite bookshops, Keplers in Menlo Park, California.  Growing up this was one of my favorite places and I spent most if not all of my allowances there.  Being back in California brought back so many fantastic memories that I wanted to share with my petites, so of course it was only natural to share this fantastic place with my family.


While browsing the children’s books one of their delightful sales people came up and asked us how we were, I asked her to show me some of her favorite titles.  She told me about her son and how he loves The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen, she said that he loved looking for the animals on the pages.  After a quick peak, it was clear that this book would be coming back to Seattle with us.

The Circus Ship

This is a tremendous story that is sure to become a favorite at story time.  It all starts five miles off the coast of Maine, where a circus ship is stuck in the fog.  On board this boat were fifteen circus animals that were heading to Boston for a show.  The delightful captain, Mr. Carrington was concerned about the weather and wanted to delay, however, Mr. Paine the circus boss has another plan in mind.

As you might have expected the circus ship didn’t make it to Boston, in fact it crashes and this is where the unexpected events unfold.  The fifteen anaimals swim all night long and soggily land on the shore, when the towns people begin to wake up they are in for quite the surprise.  This is where the amazing illustrations really come to life.  I found myself being excited with the turn of each page to see what the animals are getting into.  This story is filled with fun and adventure, the animals get into all sorts of trouble.  The rhyming flow of the story makes this a perfect book to be read aloud.  You cannot help but have a huge smile on your face as you search for the ostrich in an outhouse, a python in the pantry, and a tiger in the tulips.  This book also provides the perfect opportunity to discuss feelings of the towns people as they discover the different animals – I love this interaction it is so important to be able to discuss these small components of stories with petites.

Of course no story is complete without something really stunning happening, there is a fire and a little one who is trapped inside, the tiger acts just like he has many other nights with jumping through a ring of fire and he does just that and saves sweet Emma Rose.  After this brave act the towns people change the opinion about the animals and they lived together and it seems like this would be the perfect ending to a perfect book.

However, you may be asking yourself what about Mr.Paine?  Well, he comes back and he is mean as ever looking for his animals so that he can put them back to work.  The townspeople have had a change of heart, they love these animals and so they help to hide them.  Mr. Paine searches all over the town and cannot find his animals anywhere.  This is where your petite can see if they have better luck than Mr. Paine.

What I think is so terribly fun about this story is that it is based upon true events!

Circus Ship

What!  So this is the part where I get really giddy, as a teacher I love stories like this one and then where there is a non-fiction document to go with it, you have a fantastic teachable moment.


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