What a Circus!

The best chapter in 'What a Circus' is the one about the naughty elephants, Caudy, Patra and Boni. Recently, Boni has been hoovering the knees of the audience with her trunk during performances, and this time she almost stole a camera. Now, the new elephant trainer gives them a strict talking-to. Their shame pervades the whole stall. Bibi Dumon Tak once more proves that no one can write about animals with such an overwhelming tenderness as she. After ten pages, the elephants, or sea lions, or liberty horses are just like people. And that is the art.

Children's books
Bibi Dumon Tak

Her secret lies, perhaps, in her journalistic approach. Like a tenacious reporter, Dumon Tak seeks the heart of her subject and refuses to give up until she has found it. For this book she talked to experts in animal training, juggling and acrobatics. She followed the daily life of a circus director, a teacher from the travelling circus school, a ringmaster, a clown, a circus child and even someone who knew all about tents. And she sneaked around in between the caravans and stalls in order to get the smell of the animals and - who knows? Maybe even to talk to them, too.

This makes every chapter a lively, sensitive portrait of circus people and animals and brings the excitement and tragedy of life in the ring close enough to touch. The essential historical and professional details have been artfully woven into the plot.

'No one risks his life for half-hearted applause’, says Dumon Tak of the dangerous life of a circus artist. With a great deal of verbal juggling, she has long since made it clear that this quote also applies to her. Dumon Tak has evolved her own individual style in the genre of informative books, in which emotion and fact complement each other. You have to be daring to write such moving stories for children. An evening at the circus will never seem the same again after this book.

Bibi Dumon Tak
Bibi Dumon Tak (b. 1964) is the first non-fiction writer for children to have won the Theo Thijssen Prize for her oeuvre.
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