While the Greatest Show on Earth is coming to an end soon for one company, it’s just starting at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis! In honor of their newest temporary exhibition, Circus — Starring YOU!, here’s our list of great circus books for you and your children to enjoy.
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Peter Spier’s Circus A fun picture book for the younger crowd. Beautiful, engaging illustrations tell the story of the circus coming to town, from set up to take down.
SkippyJon Jones Cirque de Ole You might not learn a lot about the circus from this picture book, but Skippyjon is always hilariously entertaining for all ages. This is one of my favorite read-alouds and fits our theme just fine. If ever there is a SkippyJon book for any subject, I will probably still always include it, even if my boys might roll their eyes at me now when I force them to listen to the silliness.
Haley Helium Goes to the Circus An elementary science book through and through, this book uses a circus theme to introduce kids to many scientific concepts.
The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum What list would be complete without a look at the man who made the circus what it is today? This biography is P.T. Barnum covers his entire life, all the ups and downs. It includes many of his own quotes and real pictures. This one is best suited for upper grades (middle and high school).
One Amazing Elephant A middle grades book that deals with some pretty heavy issues. This middle grade novel stars 12 year old Lily, a girl raised around the circus, with performer grandparents and mother. She bonds with a circus elephant while coping with the death of her grandfather. This book gives some insight into the backstage happenings of circus life.
If you’re looking for a circus-themed book for yourself to read, I highly recommend Night Circus for fiction and Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus for nonfiction. Both of these are great reads that I personally loved, and that made me appreciate the circus, probably for the first time in my life (hey, we all have our flaws– mine is that I didn’t dig on circuses).