All children wonder, at times, if parents make decisions solely to suppress fun; in this story, there is no doubt.
Blanda, Borely and Little Dud—their gray clothing and straight brown hair resembling their parents’—lead an intentionally diversion-free existence. Books are confiscated and replaced with blank paper, television may be watched only when unplugged, and school attendance is denied. When a snail crosses the road, the family moves, because “[i]t’s like a circus around here.” Observant viewers will intuit from the siblings’ contraband reading material and paint-store antics that becoming a juggler, tightrope walker and lion tamer are actually in line with their desires. They will chuckle at the dull adults’ absurdity and revel in the children’s rebellion. Salmieri’s watercolor, gouache and colored-pencil scenes provide just enough texture and color (seen in the outside world) to maintain interest. Small, changing expressions among these oval-eyed, spindly-legged caricatures and amusing details on the cover and title page reward close looking. The difference, however, between this crew and their cousins, the Stupids and Dumb Bunnies, is that those families are ignorant together—blissfully, lovingly. Here, although there is humor in the home, there is no joy; the children struggle to entertain themselves under extreme demands for conformity.
When the siblings sneak out to join the circus, readers may hope that they never return. (Picture book. 4-8)