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Sandy's Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder Hardcover – September 4, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 2–4—What child—or adult—is not intrigued by a mobile: moving, swaying, changing in light and space as it intrigues and delights. Calder's name is nearly synonymous with these creations, and Stone and Kulikov spin out a fast-moving tale that is in keeping with their high-energy subject. From childhood, Sandy produced an array of objects for friends and family from found materials. As an adult, when hired to draw pictures of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, he took the project one step further, bringing the circus to life with bits of wire, cork, buttons, yarns, and string. Eventually, his creations filled five suitcases, and the performances included chariot races; bucking broncos; and high-wire acts that flipped, leaped, and danced in the air. Audiences loved it. Stone depicts Calder as a man utterly involved in his work, and Kulikov strengthens the premise using two differing styles of illustration—often on the same page. He portrays Calder in a Gulliver-like mode: stepping between New York and Paris in giant strides, forming his wire characters with hands that dominate an entire spread, and sprawling happily across the floor as part of the circus performance. These depictions, in full robust colors, often show Calder in childlike poses, interacting with the wire animals, oblivious to an artist muse who floats above him. In contrast, gray-shaded drawings with bold black lines sometimes crowd into the page, seemingly portraying the working "stuff" of Calder's bursting imagination: a jumbled mixture of tools and ideas that formed his extraordinary artistic creations.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
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Artist Alexander Calder’s works often find an appreciative audience among kids, so it’s surprising that there are so few books about him for young children. This beautifully illustrated picture-book biography fills the void with a spare, direct story that focuses on Calder’s youth and what are, perhaps, his most kid-accessible artworks: his wire sculptures of circus performers. Stone distills Calder’s youth and early adulthood into just a few lines per page: Calder grew up with encouraging parents who were artists, but it wasn’t until he joined the navy and was awestruck by dramatic views from deck that he thought about art school. Later, in Paris, he developed his wire sculptures, including the circus pieces that made him famous. The text is confusingly vague about where and for whom Calder performed his circus, and the final page, which mentions Calder’s mobiles, feels rushed. Kulikov’s elegant, fanciful, multimedia collages extend the story, though, and they will ignite curiosity in Calder and in his art-making process, which seems as joyful and free-form as children’s play. Grades 1-3. --Gillian Engberg