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CIRCUS! by Mattie Lou O'Kelley



Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown

The noted folk artist presents another slice of life in the rural Georgia of the early part of this century. Twenty-five paintings depict the day a farm family goes to the circus: early morning chores, school, the eventful journey to town, the circus itself, and finally the trip home. One of the younger children describes the day, using some terms (""strings of leather britches"") which may bewilder late 20th-century urban readers. Her voice, though, is lively, funny and believable. As with O'Kelley's two other picture books, her paintings are the chief attraction; here they are uneven. She uses her naive style with flat perspective and minute detail, but the pictures are repetitive since many are too small for detail to stand out and be distinguished one from another. The full-page paintings are best, but some are grainy in reproduction, losing her usual sharp, clear tone. O'Kelley's work marks her as a unique artist. Appreciating that, this remains one of her lesser efforts.