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The Circus Ship Hardcover – September 22, 2009

4.9 out of 5 stars 207 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 1—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.—Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA END

About the Author

Chris Van Dusen is the illustrator of the Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo. He wrote and illustrated IF I BUILT A CAR, an E.B. White Read Aloud Award Winner. He lives in Maine.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076363090X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763630904
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 0.4 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Callender on September 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The fictional story, written in verse, will captivate young readers. It's about a ship full of circus animals that runs into thick fog and crashes off the coast of Maine. The animals find their way to nearby island; much to the dismay of the people who live there. They wake to find elephants walking around, monkeys hanging from their clotheslines, hippos bathing in the streams, and exotic snakes peeking in their pantries. At first the people are worried and annoyed at the chaos the new arrivals have created. Then a brave rescue of one of the children changes their minds. Just as they all begin to live happily together, the circus boss returns to bring his animals back to work. Will the people be able to rescue them? You'll have to find out.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen is intended for children ages 4-8 years old and makes a great book for beginner readers. My daughter loved the story for its rhyming lines and the animals. I really enjoyed that this book was based on a historical event. It encouraged me to learn more about The Royal Tar. Any book that inspires actions after reading is sure to be a big hit with kids, parents, and teachers.
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Others have summarized this book, but I'd like to add that as an elementary school librarian, this book was a big hit with my 1st-3rd graders. They were totally engrossed in the story, cheering the townspeople who took care of the courageous animals and protected them from the circus boss who callously left them behind when the ship sank. They loved finding the "hidden" animals. After hearing the original story that inspired this book, they looked forward to a happy ending. I'll have to get multiple copies for the library and would love to see this made into a movie! It's a roller coaster of a read!
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This was a favorite book of the buyer at a local children's store - and we have to agree that it was fun, had a compelling story that rolled off the tongue and wonderful illustrations. All three children (2, 5 and 8) like it - but it's a favorite of the 5 year who especially loves the pages where you have to find all the silly places the animals are hiding from the ridiculously bad circus master. Recommend!
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Format: Hardcover
This book was a lot of fun to read with my 6 year old. The rhymes are perfect for reading with a young child who is learning to read. I would read a page and then she would read the same page independently using the rhyme as a guide to 'remember'. A great help in learning how to read and learning how to predict the words to come. Rhyming books are great exercises for that.

The story is also a lot of fun to read. There was a page where all of the animals are 'hidden' by the townspeople who are trying to prevent the abusive circus owner from finding the animals and taking them away. It was fun searching for all of the hidden animals.

I highly recommend this book.
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I can't tell you how much I love Chris Van Dusen's books! The rhyming doesn't get in the way of the story - it just flows naturally, like you're speaking, but it just happens to rhyme. Fun stories, beautiful illustrations. His books are the ones my kids and I both look forward to reading over and over again!
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Chris Van Dusen's books tell excellent stories that keep the kids VERY interested, they use a number of "stretch" vocabulary words, and the artwork is bar none the best I've ever seen in kids books. Highly, highly recommend all of Chris Van Dusen's books. And no I am not related to Chris V.D., nor I do I write professional reviews for money/reward, nor do I have any other interest in writing this review other than giving credit where it is due. I simply like to recognize excellence when I see it since we dont see it too often these days. By this book and enjoy it with your kids! :-)
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What a terrific book. Read it out loud first. Then go back, with the child, and do a variety of activities. First, count the animals on the ship. Are there 15? Then identify the animals. Then, as the animals swim to shore, again count. Are there 15? Let's try and find all of them by name. The best part is when the town's people hide the animals. It is like seek and find. The snake and the alligator seem to be the hardest to find. What a fun book to read over and over. I now give it as a gift and my friends, after hearing me rave about it, also give it as gifts. I used it with my two year old grandson. But, five year olds love it as well. Diane M.
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Super fun book! The illustrations are beautiful with rich colors. At the end of the story, kids get to find where all the animals have hidden. My kids love that part. It's a great book about a town learning to live with shipwrecked circus animals and in the end, helping them hide from their selfish circus master.
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