This simple poem penned by first-time children's book author Maya Gottfried and illustrated by Robert Rahway Zakanitch, also a newcomer to children's books, captures both the marvels of the circus as seen by a wide-eyed child and the slow, thick images of a remembered dream. Brief sentences are accompanied by luminous paintings of acrobats and animals. "I jumped through hoops," is printed opposite a painting of four dogs in dresses and party hats, quivering with anticipation as each awaits its turn to leap through the big red hoop above. The circus performers, dangling from ropes and trapezes, balanced upside down on horseback, or with heads just clearing a lion's pointy teeth, sport costumes magnificently patterned with flowers, feathers, and curlicues. Each is captured against a black background, just as if in a spotlight under the darkened big top. The clowns in this book aren't scary--but you may swear off circuses forever after you see the laughing chimpanzee hanging from the parallel rings. The other illustrations are lush and whimsical, especially one featuring a woman in a spectacularly feathered dress carrying exotic birds on her arms and head. (Ages 4 to 8) --Jennifer Lindsay
From Publishers Weekly
Gottfried's meditative debut is accompanied by the artwork of fine artist Zakanitch, also a newcomer to children's books. Evocative watercolors of circus folk in full regalia suggest a slow-motion performance. The parade of acrobats and animals begins with the title words, "Last night I dreamed a circus," offset by an image of a man doing a one-handed handstand on horseback. "I spun circles round the stars," the text continues, alongside a woman who grips a rope in her teeth and whirls like a corkscrew. "I twisted in knots" pictures a contortionist in an exotic red-and-white bodysuit. "And I laughed" features a startling, grinning chimpanzee in feather headgear and a dress, hanging from parallel hoops. Zakanitch poses the characters in spangled tights, skin-tight costumes with curlicues and (in one case) a magnificent patterned cape which alludes to Alexandre Benois's and Lon Bakst's costume designs for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The artist enfolds his performers in heavy black or midnight-blue backgrounds, so that they seem at once spotlit and suspended in tar; the trapeze artists are sealed in space, while other performers stand rigidly as though taking a bow. Likewise, Gottfried's placid, unrhymed lines end firmly in periods, arresting the action on each page and building up inertia. These characters don't fly through the air with the greatest of ease, but their fanciful procession plus Zakanitch's extravagant costumes should garner some oohs and aahs. Ages 3-6.
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