Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WHO PUT THE B IN BALLYHOO? by Carlyn Beccia

WHO PUT THE B IN BALLYHOO?

The Most Amazing, Bizarre, and Celebrated Circus Performers

By Carlyn Beccia (Author) , Carlyn Beccia (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 - 10

Pub Date: April 9th, 2007
ISBN: 0-618-60567-3
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Beccia’s debut, a fanciful, alphabetical survey of early circus performers, showcases her facility in graphic design. Setting the stage, early-20th-century sepia streetscapes feature a colorful circus bill, the parade of performers to come and a family entering the tent. The ensuing digitally composed mixed-media illustrations, bordered in black, reflect the typography, color palette and iconography of vintage circus posters, presenting the hirsute Lady Esau, tattooed Captain Costentenus and more. Each poster combines the hyperbolic allure of early adverts and an alphabet ditty with a few well-chosen historical facts in crisp white type at the bottom of each page. The weakness here is the text. The rhymed verses do not always scan, and a few slangy words don’t mesh: “R is for round / A zaftig beauty / Ruth’s got girth / & a buxom booty.” The spread featuring conjoined sisters skirts propriety, even given the historical context: “O is for odd / It’s strange but true / The Hilton Twins / Are stuck like glue.” Visually accomplished but textually flawed. (Picture book. 6-10)