Title: The Boys From Baraboo: The Story of the Ringling Brothers
Authors: Barbara Harnack & Michael Lancaster
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Independent – Ballyhoo
Number of pages: 34
Recommended age: 4 to 7
Reviewed by: Renee and Dominic (Mother and Son)
This book is about a family who started the biggest circus in the world, The Ringling Brothers Circus. It tells the story of how the Daddy first got paid for making horse harnesses with tickets to a circus. They had so much fun at the circus that they started their own little one until it got bigger and bigger. Then it became the biggest circus in the world.
1. What do you think of the cover and/or the pictures in the book? I think the pictures should look more realistic because they look like they’ve just been painted. They look kind of weird and different than what I usually see.
2. What can you tell me about the Ringling Brothers? There were 5 brothers who started the circus. They started a circus on their farm and charged 1 penny for their first show. They said their circus was the best because they were honest and they treated their animals nicely.
3. What is your favorite part of the book? My favorite part of the book is when the man is doing the tightrope walking because I like tightropes. I liked reading about how the circus started and how it got so big.
4. What is your least favorite part of the book? My least favorite part of the book are the pictures.
5. Does this book make you want to go out and join the circus? What kind of circus performer would you be? I don’t want to join the circus because I want to be an animal rescuer and a zoo keeper, but if I did join the circus I would be an acrobat.
6. Overall, what did you think about this book? I really liked the book. The story was really good, but the pictures could be better.
7. Who do you think would like this book? I think boys and girls older than 3 and everybody would like this book.
Son Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: The Boys From Baraboo: The Story of The Ringling Brothers tells the true story of the origins and early days of the Ringling Brothers Circus, one of the biggest and most renown circuses in the world. The husband and wife team of Michael Lancaster and Barbara Harnack have created a historically significant and visually stunning picture book in The Boys From Baraboo.
The story begins with the excitement surrounding the circus that is coming to small-town McGregor, Iowa. The reader is introduced to the patriarch of the Ringling Brothers who receives circus tickets in exchange for his services in making leather harnesses for horses. The Papa takes his family to help set up the Big Top and watch the circus. The entire family is mesmerized by the wonderful acts they witness and they decide to stage a small circus in their family’s barn. From their modest start charging one penny for admission to their small circus to purchasing the famous Greatest Show on Earth, the reader is witness to the rise of one of the greatest circuses in modern times. It is truly an inspiring story.
Aside from the historical account of the establishment of the Ringling Brothers Circus, the most fascinating part of the book are the amazing illustrations. Each scene is built in a light box using hand-sculpted (by Harnack) characters and unique diorama-type scenes that were photographed for the book. I cannot imagine the patience and creativity required for this task and I give full accolades for the effort put forth by the authors. On one level, the detail is absolutely astounding; but, I think the illustrations will more likely appeal to and be appreciated by adults more so than kids. I don’t think children will fully comprehend how the images were created – they will simply observe them in the book and react to them. As mentioned by Dominic, they appear unusual compared to what we normally see in children’s books.
One other comment about the images is that it appears as though the text on some of the props were added digitally after the fact instead of being handed-painted on prior to being photographed. This is especially evident on the railway cars in the two-page spread near the end of the book. I think it does take away from the old-style charm of the images.
My Bottom Line: The Boys From Baraboo: The Story of The Ringling Brothers is an inspiring, fact-based account of the origins of the Ringling Brothers Circus. The book features very unique illustrations that I personally felt were amazing, but which may not be as well received by children. I think this would be a great book for parents, teachers, and librarians to share as a non-fiction title with children aged 4+.
* This book was provided to us by the author free-of-charge in exchange for our honest review.*
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