The Circus: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about the circus?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to the circus. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about the circus.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about the circus, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Ringmaster’s Secret to popular sellers like Circus Mirandus to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Circus Ship.

We hope this list of kids books about the circus can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't! book
#1
If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, Don't!
Written and illustrated by Elise Parsley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

The third book in the bestselling MAGNOLIA SAYS DON’T! series is another loud and cautionary tale of what not to do—this time, at the library! If you see a poster that says “You Can Do Anything at the Library!”, it is NOT giving you permission to put on a circus! But Magnolia doesn’t see any problem with setting up her own big top. She’s got a lot of gusto and one mean human cannonball routine. So what if her greatest show on Earth won’t fit between bookshelves? Elise Parsley’s boldly expressive illustrations perfectly complement this mostly-librarian-approved guide on how to be everything BUT quiet in the library!

The Circus Ship book
#2
The Circus Ship
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

After courageously swimming to shore when the ship that they are traveling on sinks and the wretched captain does nothing to rescue them, circus animals find a way to become a valued part of a coastal community.

Circus Girl book
#3
Circus Girl
Written and illustrated by Clare Pernice
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

When a little girl plays dress up in her leotard and socks she becomes Circus Girl star of the show. Even her toys morph into her dreamscape of circus acts. At each page turn she jumps and tumbles, flies through the air, juggles, spins, balances and contorts. Vibrant and winsome, modern and timeless the illustrations and words convey a captured childhood moment with directness and simplicity.

Your First Day of Circus School book
#4
Your First Day of Circus School
Written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by Melissa Crowton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A clever, comical re-imagining of the classic “first day of school” story, with a circus twist!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages! It’s the most amazing day on earth: the first day of school! It can be a daunting prospect, but don’t worry - your big brother can show you the ropes. Join a nervous boy and his enthusiastic older brother as they navigate the highs and lows of a first day at school . . . except this school is a big top, and the teacher is named Miss Stupendous, and the cafeteria can be a zoo, literally! It turns out, school isn’t so scary when you can let off steam during recess (on a steam train) and walk on stilts to all of your classes. With a bit of help from family and some new friends, you’ll make it to the top of the class in no time! This charming take on school readiness will delight new school-goers and take a bit of the fear out of those first-day jitters.

ABC French book
#5
ABC French
Written and illustrated by Daniel Roode
board book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

ABC French is a gorgeously illustrated, engaging read that makes learning the alphabet and French words fun for the entire family. Learning French has never been more fantastique! The book pairs each letter of the French alphabet with a French word and its English translation. The included pronunciation guide helps teach the proper pronunciation of each word, making this book a perfect introduction to the French language. With colorful, engaging illustrations from children’s book author and illustrator Daniel Roode, both children and adults will love learning a new language with ABC French.

  1. Second Banana - “A picture book about Oop, a gorilla, who is second banana to The Amazing Mr. Bubbles, a monkey, until one day, Mr. Bubbles finds himself in trouble and Oop has to save the day”—

  2. Extraordinary Jane - Jane the dog doesn’t have a unique talent in the circus like the rest of her family, until the ringmaster discovers what is truly special about her

  3. Slide and See Adding at the Circus - Young children will love moving the sliders to make the circus animals do tricks and reveal the answers to simple sums. Counting the animals on the page, then moving the slider to add one more, shows how addition works in a simple yet entertaining way. A delightful book that children will return to again and again.

  4. Sandy's Circus - Alexander Calder, or Sandy to those who knew him, was a joyous, playful man who did not call himself an artist. But, oh what an artist he was! His gigantic, colorful metal sculptures and his amazing mobiles can be seen in public places all over the world. One of his first creations was a wonderful, whimsical that made out of found materials such as wire, cork, and paper. Imagine a big bear of a man down on his hands and knees, making his clever creations leap, run, and dance to the delight of everyone who watched. This is the story of Sandy’s magical, moveable circus.

Madeline and the Gypsies book
#10
Madeline and the Gypsies
Written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines the smallest one was Madeline.”

Nothing frightens Madeline—not tigers, not even mice. With its endearing, courageous heroine, cheerful humor, and wonderful, whimsical drawings of Paris, the Madeline stories are true classics that continue to charm readers, even after 75 years. Join Madeline in another adventure when she and Pepito run off to join the carnival with a band of traveling gypsies!

The Case of the Crooked Carnival book
#11
The Case of the Crooked Carnival
Written by Michele Torrey
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Fourth-graders Drake Doyle and Nell Fossey combine their detective and scientific investigation skills to solve cases involving a crooked carnival barker, a mysterious ghost, an alien plant species invading wildlife habitats and a wobbly bridge. Original.

Circus Mirandus book
#12
Circus Mirandus
Written by Cassie Beasley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Even though his awful Great-Aunt Gertrudis doesn’t approve, Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather. The only problem is, the Lightbender doesn’t want to keep his promise. And now it’s up to Micah to get the miracle he came for.

Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole book
#13
Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole
Written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

The #1 New York Times bestselling kitty boy goes to the circus!

In his newest adventure, the irresistible Skippyjon Jones swings out of his closet and into the spectacular Cirque de Ole, where his pals, the Chimichango gang, perform feats of derring-do. There are many acts to see, but only Skippito the Strong can perform the trickiest stunt of all. Judy Schachner’s vivacious art and riotous text make for mucho read-aloud fun.

Come one, come all–with Skippyjon Jones as the circus star, the Greatest Show on Earth just got even better!

The Ringmaster's Secret book
#14
The Ringmaster's Secret
Written by Carolyn Keene
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Nancy is given a beautiful gold bracelet and finds that one of the charms is missing. When she learns the unusual story behind the jewelry, she sets out to solve the fascinating mystery. The bracelet had been presented to a former circus performer by a queen who loved horses. For some reason the performer had to sell the bracelet but would not reveal her true identity. Clues lead Nancy to Sims’ Circus, where she meets Lolita, an unhappy young aerialist who has a horse charm wrought exactly like those on Nancy’s bracelet. Will Nancy be able to find the original owner of the bracelet?

  1. The Strongest Man in the World - The Strongest Man in the World is a true story that reads like a Paul Bunyan tall tale. Cyprien-Noé was born into a poor family in a small village in Quebec, Canada in 1863. At the age of 8 he found a 100-pound calf that was stuck in the mud, lifted it up to his chin and carried it home over his shoulders. At 12, he came upon an injured man in the woods and carried him back to his horse and wagon. News of his strength spread. He changed his name to Louis Cyr, and, at age 18, he began traveling the United States, Canada and Europe, performing increasingly impressive feats of strength. At a performance in Boston when touring with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circuses, Cyr lifted 350 pounds with one hand. He entered contests, bested other strong men, and eventually became known around the globe as the “Strongest Man in the World”.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!