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To the Big Top    by Jill Esbaum & David Gordon order for
To the Big Top
by Jill Esbaum
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Anyone who has ever read my reviews knows that I enjoy children's books that introduce history or historical figures in a child-friendly manner. As a result of many of these types of books, my seven-year old has developed what I hope amounts to a lifelong interest in history.

To the Big Top is a great book because it takes the reader back to the days of the traveling circus. Although it is fiction, it does represent a slice of American life that no longer exists.

Sam and Benny are thrilled when the circus rolls into their small town. Even before it opens, they run to the site and end up with a few small, odd jobs. Not only do they earn a nickel each, they are given two tickets to the show by the Big Top boss. Says Benny, 'I was so bumfuzzled I couldn't unwind my tongue.'

After watching the parade - which mesmerizes the duo with acrobats and clowns - the boys think about how to spend their nickels. Sam decides on popcorn, and Benny picks a candied apple. When Sam and Benny try to go inside, they realize that the monkey stole Benny's ticket. Benny has to trade his cherished apple so that the monkey will return the ticket.

The book concludes with the boys having the time of their lives at the circus. It's such a simple story, but it reflects simpler times. Adults will like the fact that the children in the story have no expectations about going to the circus but, when they unexpectedly receive an opportunity to do so, they appreciate every golden moment. The soft illustrations beautifully reflect the old-fashioned tone of the story.

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