Book Review: Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes’ Sidewalk Circus

Posted November 18, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Children's

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes’ Sidewalk Circus

Sidewalk Circus


Kevin Hawkes, Paul Fleischman

picture book in a hardcover edition that was published by Candlewick Press on May 8, 2004 and has 32 pages.

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Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes, Paul Fleischman

A standalone picture book for children that will make you see things from a different perspective.

My Take

This is very clever! Fleischman and Hawkes sucker you right in with the promise of the circus coming to town…and then tease with that sly comment about the performers perhaps being here already, as they slide you into the old city neighborhood of skateboarders, window washers, guys doing construction, deliverymen, cooks…all the everyday people in the neighborhood.

Admittedly Fleischman/Hawkes have taken some liberties with those shadow thrust up against the walls, but I gotta give ‘em credit for their imaginations. Even with those minor tweaks.

It’s kind of a Where’s Waldo for you and the kids to find the shadows and interpret them. Encourage the kids to see the differences AND the similarities. Stimulate those imaginations.

There are no words, other than shop signs, the marquee announcing the circus, and the posters the old man is pasting up. Instead, it’s a visual feast to tease the mind.

The Story

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Step right up and witness an astounding assemblage of tightrope walkers, strong men, sword swallowers, and clowns.

The Garibaldi Circus is coming soon — but for those with clear eyes, the performers may already be in the ring. So get ready to sharpen your vision, and look very closely.

A show like you’ve never seen is about to begin!

The Cover and Title

I’ve always loved the transformative magic of shadow puppets, and this cover is a perfect example with the gigantic shadow of a top-hatted ringmaster shouting into his megaphone projected on to that huge yellow and orange brick wall…all coming from a little old man with a white mustache, a long-billed baseball cap, overalls, and a red check shirt, holding a rolled-up poster in his hand. Right next to a sidewalk cart piled with posters. With shocking indifference, three pigeons are tapping away at the pavement. The title and illustrators’ names are all at the bottom in a pale yellow against the deep brown-gray of the roadway.

The title is a totally different way of looking at the life around you, the Sidewalk Circus that performs in every town, city, and neighborhood.