Ladybug Nominee Profile

Chris Van Dusen based his story of a shipwrecked circus on an actual event, the wreck of the Royal Tar in 1836. Mr. Van Dusen's story, however, has a much better ending than real life provided.

"After their steamship en route to Boston is wrecked in a storm, a troupe of circus animals escapes bad treatment and disaster, finding its way to an island off the coast of Maine. The 1800s residents are surprised to find zebras eating their gardens and alligators lounging on woodpiles. Sympathies change when a tiger saves a toddler from a blazing shed. When a messenger announces that the cruel circus owner is returning to claim his menagerie, the citizens assist the animals in disguises and camouflage that confound him, leaving the friends to a peaceful coexistence. Van Dusen's rhymed text keeps a rollicking beat. His illustrations burst with color and energy and utilize perspective and texture to add drama and humor. Period details create a counterpoint with elements like a gorilla in a lifeboat. The spread of the animals in "hiding" is pure genius. The book honors the real circus animals that inspired this story." (School Library Journal review)

This is one of the ten titles nominated for the 2010 Ladybug Picture Book Award.

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