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To the Big Top

To the Big Top
Author: Jill Esbaum
ISBN 13: 9780374399344
ISBN 10: 374399344
Edition: First Edition
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: 2008-05-27
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
List Price: $16.95

When the circus comes to Willow Grove, Benny and Sam are in for more excitement than they can shake a stick at: elephants and acrobats, candied apples and a calliope, even a snake enchantress. They can’t think of anything better than helping the circus men set up for the grand event – until the Big Top boss gives them two tickets for the show! But then Sam’s ticket disappears, and it’s up to Benny to save the best day ever.

A tribute to the great occasions and small gestures that children will remember for a lifetime, this boisterous tale about fun and friendship is enlivened by David Gordon’s jubilant illustrations.

Publishers Weekly

Esbaum (Ste-e-e-e-eam-boat a-Comin'!) and Gordon (Smitten) whisk readers to turn-of-the-century days when a circus could take a small town by storm. When a circus hand asks Benny, the narrator, and his friend Sam if they know where he "can find me a couple of strong boys to help with the elephants," the two land jobs as junior roustabouts ("We lugged water till our shoulders ached,") and earn themselves a nickel each and two free tickets. As Esbaum moves the duo from backstage to the choice seats in the Big Top, she handily captures the flavor of pre-electricity days, especially in her use of vintage vernacular (Benny remarks at one auspicious moment, "I was so bumfuzzled I couldn't unwind my tongue"). Gordon's human characters are vanilla, but the circus animals have an appropriately exotic majesty, and his big scenes—the unloading of the circus train, the big parade down Main Street—bustle with a sense of sweep and heady pleasure. Ages 5-8. (May)

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