Book of the Week: The Circus Ship

April 1, 2013

Images and text by Carter.

How about something bright and beautiful? The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen is a fast paced, rhyming tale of a shipwreck and the sharp witted animals who were on board. They swim to shore and cause a little chaos, but soon the village falls in love with the crew and the bravery of a tiger. Their clever camouflage tucks them into the town seamlessly, helping them avoid the wrath of a booming villain who wants them back. It’s an adventure! With lush illustrations and larger than life personalities – it’s truly an enchanting tale. Your littles will love studying the pictures, looking for the hidden alligators, monkeys, and ostriches.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

And it’s an underdog tale that’s a twist on a real truth. In 1836, a steamer sank off the coast of Maine, and nearly all of the circus on board perished. It’s a tragic story, really, but legend persists that a lone elephant survived by swimming to shore. It’s that life and hint of hope that rings true in The Circus Ship.

P.S. – Remember how much Gabrielle loves elephants?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kelly April 1, 2013 at 6:37 am

I can’t believe you found this tale! It’s my son’s favorite (he’s 2). We live off the coast of Maine and it’s a wonderful tale to teach him about his heritage. His favorite line to recite is ” then came a crash, an awful bash!” :)


2 Grace @ sense and simplicity April 1, 2013 at 9:31 am

I’ve never heard of this story – although it sounds like a good one. It reminds me of a woman I used to know who told me about how in her youth during WWII she traveled on a ship that had zoo animals in cages nailed to the deck. She used to love walking around and between them and feeding the animals and checking out how they were doing. Fortunately they didn’t crash, but I always picture what that scene must have been like.


3 Jennifer April 1, 2013 at 10:22 am

We love that book. The illustrations are so colorful and it’s a fun book to read aloud. My kids love finding the animals on every page.


4 Ginger J April 1, 2013 at 10:37 am

I had the pleasure of meeting Chris van Dusen two years ago when he visited my son’s school. Not only is he a phenomenal author/illustrator , he is really nice. We especially love IF I BUILT A HOUSE and IF I BUILT A CAR. Fun books, and full of inspiration for creative kids.


5 Tara Jane April 1, 2013 at 10:43 am

Chris Van Dusen and his stories/ illustrations are just amazing. Highly reccomend Mr Maggie, Kigo Hugo’s Huge Ego, If I built a House/Car AND the Mercy Watson books as well as this one. It is fun to find Mr Maggie and His little dog Dee in all the other books! These are my favorite books to read.


6 Andrea Beck April 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

We love this book…one of our all-time favorites! Chris van Dusen is a favorite of ours…and when we camped in Maine last summer, my kids kept imagining the animals were on one of those beautiful islands.


7 Mimi April 4, 2013 at 11:40 am

I am a huge fan of Chris Van Dusen! Just love his Mr. Magee and Dee books.
When I read this yesterday, I had just finished reading The Circus Ship!
It is a fabulous book with great illustrations and I love the way that he made a story from a bit of history.


8 darcy April 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

i LOVE all of his books!


9 Clarity from friends of socktopus April 7, 2013 at 9:27 pm

My son (5) has loved this book for the last couple years. Such a great, colorful story!


10 Amanda May 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Is it worth it to get the big book or would the regular size do?


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