Welcome to our Anniversary Blog by resident blogger Jake Hope. Jake will be reading and reviewing all of the past CILIP Carnegie Medal winning books during the anniversary year. We are also asking shadowers to "Adopt a Book" and join in reading and discussing the anniversary titles in their shadowing groups.

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"The moment Aunt Rebecca died Mr Stibbings had written to the duchess’s executors, explaining what had happened, and about Peter and Santa, and asking if something could be done until they were old enough to earn their own livings. Meanwhile it was decided, if the executors said no, they were to go to an orphanage."

The Circus is Coming

Carnegie winner: 1938
Author: Noel Streatfeild

Brother and sister, Peter and Santa, have had a tragic upbringing, their mother and father were killed in a rail accident.   As though that were not bad enough, after having settled into life with their somewhat starchy Aunt Rebecca, she too died.  This means the money that allowed the children’s upkeep has gone and their future begins to look decidedly uncertain.  Determined to avoid being sent to separate orphanages, the two children resolve to find their last surviving relative, Uncle Gus who works for Cob’s Circus as a clown.

Far from being a place of wonder and amazement, the circus is depicted as a place of hard work and endeavour.  Likewise, Uncle Gus is not immediately enamoured by the appearance of his nephew and niece, much less the superior attitudes they hold towards some of the other circus folk.  Nonetheless he agrees that they can stay with him for the season and through work, grapple and training, they come to a better understanding of life in the circus with the community of workers and performers. 

As with author Noel Streafeild’s Ballet Shoes, there’s a sense of training and introduction to the wider world both through learning and through endeavour and dedication.  The insular upbringing that the two children have had is widened through introduction and exposure to a much more diverse setoff characters and backgrounds in the circus, all working towards a common goal.

Lively writing and an astute insight into family life and class prejudice make this an exceptional read. The circus is presented as a microcosm which, while having outward elements of the carnivalesque, is a community where all must pull together.