Animal Free Circus Books

Circus’s are fun and I hope many children are inspired to seek out circus thrills (minus the animals of course) after watching Tim Burton’s Dumbo or The Greatest Showman. I have a list of all circus themed children’s books in a previous post here but below is a list of circus books that do NOT have any animals in them. These are fun to read and perfect for learning about the modern circus and the amazing skills of the performers.

DIY Circus Lab for Kids by Jackie Leigh Davis

Jackie Leigh Davis is a circus arts educator and this is the best book I have found for anyone wanting to know how to juggle, balance, clown and make a show. The steps and photos are very clear and encouraging and it is suggested that the skills can be learnt in a few minutes to a few weeks depending on how much you practise. Also included are guides on how to make props, including stilts and juggling sticks. Safety warnings appear at the start of certain sections and there is even a note about creepy clowns, which are phony and not clowns at all!

Davis says circus skills are really about empathising – to perform you have to be very aware of how people are feeling, you have to watch and you have to listen. Davis knows what she is talking about as she did doctoral work aligning the CircusSecrets to five core competencies in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).  There are lots of resources and Appendix A, where she breaks down Circus as a Serious Tool For Learning, is essential reading for anyone using circuses as a performance theme or unit of inquiry. For example, for art history she suggests examining old circus posters and looking at how the circus appeared in paintings by Picasso and Chagall, composing circus music and using science to look at the centre of gravity, equilibrium, anatomy etc. Many great ideas. Highly recommended.

So You Want to Learn Juggling
by Matthew Wall

Contrary to popular belief, when you juggle, the balls do not travel around in a circular pattern. The objects travel in more of a criss-cross pattern.

Really simple, practical and fun way to learn how to juggle. I am pretty sure that this book will have anyone juggling after a bit of practice. Just get some juggling balls and hopefully, 25 pages later, you too will be a master…

Diary of a Circus Performer by Angela Royston

Written in diary form it follows one week in the life of a circus performer, a juggler who can also do some acrobatics. It has a contents page, glossary and index so is really useful for starting to teach research skills. There is information about what happens during non-performance times – lots of practicing and cleaning up – and a little bit about being nervous and missing family. Whilst there is no mention or any photographs of animal acts there are photographs from Amar and Gerry Cottle circuses showing their big tops and trailers.

(Amar is a circus in India which has had many complaints about animal welfare. It is interesting that the use of wild animals in circuses has been banned in India since 1998 and the ban is apparently being extended to elephants, hippos and maybe even horses and dogs within the next few months. Gerry Cottle has been animal free since 1993 but was known for having many animal acts before then including tigers and elephants.)

Circus Girl by Jana Novotny Hunter and Joaquin Camp

I saw this book on the Child’s Play Publishing stand at the Bologna Book Fair and I have added it to my orders (it is coming out in July 2019). It is about a little girl who dreams about performing in the circus. This is not surprising as she lives in a circus, playing and learning all about balancing and juggling and acrobatics. Lots of fun and no animals!

If you know of any more circus themed animal books for children please let me know in the comments below.




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