Who is the best performer? That is the question in this second in the entertaining Three-Ring Rascals chapter-book series.
The premise is quickly established: Polly Pumpkinseed, publisher of the Circus Times, decides to sponsor a contest to determine who is best in Sir Sidney’s circus. Sir Sidney thinks his stars are all great and doesn’t want anyone to have their feelings hurt. He smells trouble ahead. More to the point: He actually develops a worrywart on his nose and is directed to rest, leaving the circus in Barnabas Brambles’ hands. With circus mice Bert and Gert once again acting as his conscience, Barnabas behaves tolerably well this time. But Elsa the elephant, Leo the lion and the Famous Flying Banana Brothers become consumed with the contest. The story and the language trips along, as do the performers in their misguided efforts to win. As before, Gert’s invented expressions are sprinkled throughout, sure to arouse giggles (“elephant + bellyflop = eleflop”). Illustrations, complete with speech bubbles, are seamlessly interwoven with the text to capture the action and misadventures. There’s even a rousing song as the story moves toward its conclusion, asking “Can Three-Ring Rascals make this end okay?” Indeed, when they pull together, they can!
Absurd situations, winning characters and plenty of heartfelt moments and laughs combine to make this a surefire hit. (Graphic fiction hybrid. 7-10)