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The Children's Bookshelf: The Farmer and the Circus 6-7

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This is the Children’s Bookshelf and I’m Sue Ann Martin

The Farmer and the Circus told and illustrated by Marla Frazee, a two time Caldecott Medal winner, brings the trilogy about the farmer who lives alone on a farm just over the hill from the train tracks to a beautiful conclusion.

In the first book the farmer is visited by a little clown who tumbles off a passing circus train. The farmer takes him in, feeds him, teaches him how to take a bath, milk a cow and dance until it is time to join the circus train again---- leaving the farmer alone. In the second book, an unruly little monkey drops in on the farmer from the passing circus train. The farmer tries to teach him some manners, but it is exhausting. Eventually he too must rejoin the circus leaving the farmer alone again.

This third and final book shows the colorful circus performers all getting ready for the grand opening of the circus except for the little clown and the monkey who are off playing their horn and drums while others practice juggling and walking on stilts. Opening day shows the crowd filing into the big top. But wait. One lone figure is coming from over the hill. It’s the farmer! The little clown and monkey embrace him and introduce him to their friends including a lady clown who watches over them.

The joyful illustrations are the heart and soul of this book. It’s  wordless, just as were the first two books, and ripe with visual literacy opportunities from facial expressions and body language to clever details and actions. The joy of dancing, the love of community and the finding of a family such as the farmer, the little clown, the merry monkey and the lady clown find is beautiful.

The Farmer and the Circus told and illustrated by Marla Frazee is a visual delight and a perfect ending to the trilogy for children 4-8 years of age (Beach Lane Books/ Simon and Shuster, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the activity questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for The Farmer and the Circus

For younger children: Let’s go on a treasure hunt at the circus to find the following items in the pictures: the farmer juggling hats, the lady clown juggling flowers, the little clown juggling eggs, a clown walking on silts, a clown coaxing a tiger to jump through a hoop, a unicycle, a cow peeking around a house, a monkey picking apples, an apple pie and a red and yellow wagon.

On the inside title page why is the little clown refusing to put on his red clown suit? On the next page what is the little clown hoping to find in the trunk? Turn the page to see the little clown fully dressed. Who is the little clown pretending to be? Why?

If there were to be another “farmer” book which circus animal or person would you like to see visit the farmer next? Why?

This book is full of feelings and movements. Try on some of these movements:  pretend to juggle with great pleasure, beat a drum with great joy, pull a heavy rope with determination to help raise the heavy big top, dance in happy circles like the farmer and or like the lady clown and stretch out comfortably on the ground and study the stars.