Kirkus Reviews QR Code
TO THE BIG TOP by Jill Esbaum


by Jill Esbaum & illustrated by David Gordon

Pub Date: June 10th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-374-39934-4
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Early 20th century, early morning, a train-whistle blows: The circus is coming to town. Two boys light out for the railyard, intent on being part of the action. They pick up odd jobs here and there, get a nickel here, and there they get—gadzooks—a ticket to the Big Top. When it comes time to parlay their nickels into something good—popcorn maybe, or a candied apple—Esbaum turns the story into a morality play, with one boy the straw dog of crass immaturity and the other a knight in righteous armor, and the clumsiness of the point-making steals the story’s thunder. Fortunately, boys are a forgiving lot and the day is saved by what boys are also good at: trickery and getting on with it. It is Gordon who lights up the event, bringing prime elements of the story forward, dressed in electric color, and painting the background in a haze; the illustrations’ almost-can-taste-it, dreamlike quality takes readers to Back Then, when midway and sideshow were the real deal. (Picture book. 5-8)