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 The One and Only Ivan to some of our favorite hidden gems like Circus Mirandus.
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.
This beautiful new edition of Tomie dePaola’s 1978 classic retelling of a French legend stars a little juggler whose unique talent leads him to what might be a Christmas miracle.
Little Giovanni is poor and homeless, but he can do something wonderful: he can juggle.
The people of Sorrento marvel at his talents, and before long, he becomes famous throughout Italy for his rainbow of colored balls that delight the nobility and townspeople alike. But as the years pass, Giovanni grows old, and his talents begin to fail him. No longer a celebrated performer, he is once again poor and homeless, begging for his food.
Until one Christmas Eve, when Giovanni picks up his rainbow of colored balls once more. And what happens next just might be a miracle…
can stand him on a stool! I can dress him in a bow… I can ride him like a horse but WOLF WON’T BITE!
Come along on a wild circus adventure about three little pigs who have captured a wild wolf. They can make him do all sorts of tricks, but don’t worry—he would NEVER bite.
From award-winning and beloved creator Emily Gravett, Wolf Won’t Bite! contains charming text that begs to be read aloud, and quirky humor fills every page of this playful take on “The Three Little Pigs.”
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!
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.
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.
King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara - In 1859, Jean-Francois Gravelet, known as The Great Blondin, walked across the Niagara River on a tightrope. What kind of man would do something like that? And more importantly, how do you become that man? At the age of four, Jean-Francois Gravelet walked across his first balance beam. Later, he took to the tightrope like a spider to its web, and with his family troupe, he climbed toward stardom. Though his feats became more and more marvelous, he grew bored. That is, until he visited Niagara Falls and imagined doing something that no one else had ever accomplished. To cross the raging river, The Great Blondin needed an engineering process, determination, and a belief that what he could imagine, he could accomplish. In 1859, with all of the work completed, Blondin would step out onto the most dangerous tightrope walk he’d ever faced. Author Donna Janell Bowman’s trademark in-depth research gives readers a clear and exciting look into the accomplishments of The Great Blondin, as well as the hard work, determination, and meticulous mathematic and scientific planning it took to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Adam Gustavson’s detailed illustrations turn this book into an experience that will inspire readers of all ages.
Circus Girl - 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.
I Love Music: My First Sound Book - Readers of every age will be enchanted by this charming board book, which is distinguished by the exceptional quality of the musical sounds that bring every picture to life. I Love Music has a button on every spread, which triggers one of six captivating sounds that introduces a familiar instrument to the reader. An incredibly simple but utterly fascinating interactive book with sounds bound to enchant young readers and ignite an early love of music! A delightful and compelling book in the My First Sound Book series that everyone in the family will enjoy reading again and again.
The Bear's Surprise - Hibernation is over and Little Bear is ready for another adventure! But where is Papa Bear? Never fear, Little Bear will find him! Follow the curious cub through interactive cutouts on every page of this detail-rich extravaganza: into a bustling forest, deep beneath a mysterious cave, and en route to a rollicking circus in full swing. What will Little Bear discover when he finally locates his high-flying papa? The ultimate showstopping, sweet surprise awaits in this third installment of Benjamin Chaud’s acclaimed series that includes the New York Times Notable Book The Bear’s Song and The Bear’s Sea Escape.
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.
A lyrical evocation of Philippe Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers.
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.
Toddlers will love exploring all the wonders of a day at the fair in this chunky, tactile board book.
Little hands will thrill at flipping through the uniquely shaped, die-cut pages that overlap to reveal carousels, trains, rollercoasters and all the other fun-tastic sights and sounds of a bustling fairground. Delightfully petite, with light concept-based text and jubilant illustrations, Fun at the Fair is perfect for hands on play and bedtime reading alike.
• The tactile, toylike quality makes Fun at the Fair an irresistible attention-grabber for toddlers. • Decorative and elegantly-designed, this book is ideal for both nursery display and hands-on learning. • Lovers of Scandinavian design will love Ingela Arrhenius’s beautiful, 1950s-inspired art.
Fans of City Block, Main Street Magic, and Ingela Arrhenius’s Animals and Pop Up Things that Go! will love Fun at the Fair.
• Board books for toddlers • Family read-aloud for ages 0–3 • Baby shower gift/home décor
“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”—
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
Midnight Reynolds and the Phantom Circus - Twelve-year-old Midnight Reynolds is a middle-school student who works undercover for the Agency of Spectral Protection, helping ghosts cross over into the afterlife and saving her town from mishaps involving spectral energy. Now school’s out for the summer, and Midnight and her best friend Tabitha just want to have fun. But their plans are interrupted when a mysterious traveling circus and a ghostly ringmaster come to town. As people start getting hurt, Midnight finds herself in the middle of her most deadly mission yet. Someone’s stealing spectral energy from the living! Can they be stopped before it’s too late?
Fearless Mirabelle and Meg - A fun and exuberant picture book about twin sisters with very different talents. Mirabelle and Meg Moffat are twins, and their mom and dad are famous circus acrobats. Mirabelle is fearless. She promises to be the most topsy-turvy, upside-down acrobat of all. Unlike Meg, who is afraid of heights. But with a grand new show featuring Mirabelle about to open, it soon becomes clear that there is at least one thing that does scare Mirabelle. Could it be time for Meg’s talent to shine?
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.
Soon to be a major motion picture! This Harper Classic edition of the Newbery Medal winner and #1 New York Times bestseller includes an author’s note, a letter from the real Ivan’s caretaker at Zoo Atlanta, Ivan’s “signature,” discussion questions, and more. This unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendship. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated book is told from the point of view of Ivan himself. Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes. In the tradition of timeless classics such as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Katherine Applegate’s novel blends humor and poignancy to create this incredible tale of friendship, art, and hope. The One and Only Ivan was named to multiple state lists, received three starred reviews, and was hailed as a best book of the year by Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Amazon. Plus don’t miss Katherine Applegate’s Endling series!
“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!
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.
Whimsical and touching images tell the story of an unexpected friendship and the revelations it inspires in this moving, wordless picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee. A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves—and about life! Sweet, funny, and moving, this wordless picture book from a master of the form and the creator of The Boss Baby speaks volumes and will delight story lovers of all ages.
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.
A Giant Man from a Tiny Town - When Angus MacAskill was still just a boy, he began to grow…and grow…and…grow! Known far and wide as the Cape Breton Giant, Angus was loved by his neighbours as much for his beautiful singing voice as for his renowned strength. But as much as Angus loved his little town of St. Ann’s, Cape Breton, he decided to leave and seek fortune and adventure. With heartfelt text from critically acclaimed author Tom Ryan and meticulously researched and joyful illustrations from Christopher Hoyt (A is for Adventure), A Giant Man from a Tiny Town tells the story of a remarkable man who travelled the world performing for crowds, but never stopped longing to return to the place he loved the best: his Cape Breton home.
Bear Circus - It takes the koala bears seven years to learn to use the circus equipment they find and to put together an act.
Baby Clown - An award-winning author and a Caldecott Medalist introduce an adorable new circus star — who won’t stop wailing! When Frieda and Boffo Clown have a baby, everyone in the circus is over the moon. But there is just one problem: Baby Clown won’t stop crying! Frieda and Boffo try everything: putting on their silliest faces, driving him around in their tiny car. They even try taking off his red nose and big shoes. But that just makes Baby Clown cry more. Can Frieda and Boffo turn his little clown frown upside down in time for the sold-out show? Kara LaReau deftly juggles wit and warmth in this hilarious nod to parental persistence, while Matthew Cordell’s big-top-bright illustrations bring Baby Clown and his circus family to humorously frazzled life. Older siblings, in particular, will step right up to this applause-worthy picture book, joining Baby Clown in many a heartfelt “WAAAAH!”
Cannonball Coralie and the Lion - Coralie longs to join the circus but the Man in the Big Hat says her tricks just aren’t good enough. With the help of her new friend, Lion, Coralie realizes she’s perfect just the way she is. A heart-warming story about the friendship between a girl and a lion, this fun, quirky picture book celebrates daring to be different and the importance of standing up for yourself.
Getting separated from her beloved master on an unfamiliar street, Kashtanka, a chestnut-colored dog, joins the household of a kindhearted circus clown and his three trained animals and is eventually forced to choose between two families.
An acrobat gets fed up of no one ever noticing him, so leaves the circus to find somewhere where his talents are appreciated.
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!
Sky lives, plays and learns in a circus; she even dreams about performing! In this picture book, the excitement of the circus influences every aspect of Sky’s life. But who is the star of the show?
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?
If I Ran the Circus - Dr. Seuss’s classic celebration of youthful imagination!
The Circus McGurkus! The World’s Greatest Show
On the face of the earth, or wherever you go!
Young Morris McGurk’s has a BIG imagination. He wants to turn the vacant lot behind Sneelock’s Store into the Circus McGurkus—the most colossal, stupendous, tremendous show in the world! Here you’ll be entertained by bizarre creatures like the Drum-Tummied Snum, the Juggling Jott, and the Harp-Twanging Snarp, and fantastic circus acts performed by Sneelock—a sleepy shop keeper whom Morris images as the daredevil star of his big top! This is Dr. Seuss at his best, celebrating youthful imagination and creating a fantasy world that will delight and transport readers of all ages.
Mystery of the Ivory Charm - What secret life-giving power does the exquisite ivory elephant charm contain? Can the trinket really protect its wearer from all harm? Nancy Drew finds out when the owner of the Bengleton Wild-Animal Show asks her to investigate one of the performers who may be involved in some mysterious illegal scheme.The girl detective’s assignment becomes complicated when the elephant trainer’s young assistant, Rishi, seeks refuge at the Drew home from his cruel foster father, Rai.While following clues to help the boy find his real father, Nancy learns about an eerie abandoned house. She is harassed by its strange owner, Anita Allison, and the fiendish Rai. How Nancy uses the ivory charm, reunites a maharaja with his son, and brings the evildoers to justice will mystify readers from beginning to end.
Mr. Tiger, Betsy, and the Blue Moon - Award-winning author Sally Gardner delivers a whimsical tale about the daughter of a mermaid and an ice cream maker, a mysterious talking tiger, and a challenge as big as the moon. From a magical world of well-dressed animals, talking toads, and bossy princesses comes a timeless story about Mr. Tiger and his troupe of acrobats, and Betsy K. Glory, the daughter of a mermaid and an ice cream maker. Together they must figure out how to turn the moon blue, appease a grumpy giant, and make the best-tasting and rarest ice cream in the world—Gongalong Berry Ice Cream. Told with beautiful one-color illustrations throughout, this modern fairy tale teaches us that happiness is sometimes big enough to solve even the toughest problems.
The Circus Comes to the Village - When fall arrives, the circus comes to Paghman village, one of the few pleasures for the villagers. Yamo and his friend Mirado are very excited. Yamo misses his brother, who has gone off to war. Mirado’s father is also away at war. At the circus, the boys browse the vendors, ride the swings and enjoy the shows. Mirado plays his father’s flute with the circus band and his music moves the people’s hearts. When the circus moves on the next day, Mirado leaves with it. As the villagers prepare for the severe winter ahead, Yamo thinks about his friend Mirado and wonders how he is doing. Finally, snow falls. The villagers are happy, since the snow leads to the next year’s harvest. Kobayashi’s illustrations portray the beautiful village life that fall. Then, on the final page we are stunned to learn: “This winter, my village was destroyed by the war, and people escaped to other villages.” But the reader is ultimately left with hope, as the springtime announces the villagers’ return.
The fire broke out at 2:40 p.m. Thousands of men, women, and children were crowded under Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s big top watching the Flying Wallendas begin their death-defying high-wire act. Suddenly someone screamed “Fire!” and the panic began. By 2:50 the tent had burned to the ground. Not everyone had made it out alive. With primary source documents and survivor interviews, Big Top Burning recounts the true story of the 1944 Hartford circus fire—one of the worst fire disasters in US history. Its remarkable characters include: Robert Segee, the fifteen-year-old circus roustabout and known pyromaniac; and the Cook children, Donald, Eleanor, and Edward, who were in the audience when the circus tent caught fire. Guiding readers through the investigations of the mysteries that make this moment in history so fascinating, this book asks: Was the unidentified body of a little girl nicknamed “Little Miss 1565” Eleanor Cook? Was the fire itself an act of arson—and did Robert Segee set it? Big Top Burning combines a gripping disaster story, an ongoing detective and forensics saga, and World War II-era American history, inviting middle-grade readers to take part in a critical evaluation of the evidence and draw their own conclusions.
Max Patkin was pitching in the minor leagues when he was injured and had to leave his dreams behind. He joined the Navy and eventually was able to play again while in the military . . . and this time he got to pitch against superstar Joe DiMaggio. When Joe hit one of Max’s throws out of the park, Max threw down his glove, left the mound, and chased Joe around the bases, making faces and imitating his every move. The crowd loved it! And a baseball clown was born.
This inspiring and comical biography carries an important message: Life doesn’t always turn out exactly as you hope . . . but moving in a new direction can sometimes bring happy surprises.
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”.
Having fibbed about stealing his best friend’s popcorn at the circus, Doug-Dennis the sheep finds himself carried far away to a place filled with lies and liars of all sorts and must discover a way to return.
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