By: Paul Fleischman and Illustrated by: Kevin Hawkes
Published by: Candlewick Press 2004
Sidewalk Circus is a wordless picture book. I have read many wordless picture books to my Kindergartners but never for myself and I have to say that I found myself reading this one several times over. This is a beautifully illustrated book about a little girl who is waiting for the bus. As she wait she sees a sign for the circus. She starts to notice everyday people and imagine their tasks are just as those would be if they were in the circus.
The illustrations in this book are magical. They are very bright colored and span the page. The coloring also reminds me of the circus. There are several pages that show the girl on the side in a circle frame. The little girl is bright and colorful, however, the adults around her are very dark and indifferent looking to what is around them. I think the illustrations were completed with the darker side to show two things. 1) I think it is to mimic a circus. When you go to the circus it is dark in the stands and the circus ring is bright and cheery just as the book seems to depict. 2) I think it also shows how adults are too busy with their everyday life to notice their surroundings in a creative way. I am reminded of the quote by Walt Streightiff that says " There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million." Adults are too busy with life to stop and use there imaginations and see the world for the wonder that it is. Children however, see everything as exciting and have imaginations that run wild. This book captures that youthful spirit that children have. The book highlights the little girl and her reactions to the people around her. For example in one part she has her eyes half covered when the men were falling off the window washer cart just as I imagine she would do when the flying trapeze artist perform at the circus. The theme that children have great imaginations is even more evident as the little girl gets on her bus and the next page shows a little boy coming to take her place on the bench. He has the same wide-eyed amazed look as the little girl did.
While reading the book, I can't help but think of the many times I have been somewhere waiting for something and had started "people watching." I have never imagined such things as the circus or anything exciting but it has been fun to stop and take in my surroundings. With a little imagination I wonder how much more exciting those times could have been. The author did a wonderful job of matching everyday activities up with circus activities in great detail. I would love to read this story to a group of students to see what they noticed about the story and what their interpretation of the events where. I believe just like the little girl in the story they too would find more amazing parts of it than even I did the several times I poured through the pages.