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The Picture Book Buzz

Your First Day of Circus School - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I've lost count how many "first day of school" picture books exist. I know some of my favorites have been the more unusual ones, such as: School's First Day of School (the school's POV); First Day Jitters (the teacher's POV); and The Day You Begin. It takes a pretty special premise, author, or POV to soar above the crowd these days. I've found just such a book.

Now, I realize that it is currently, or about to be, summer break. I can't control the release dates of books. But, if you are facing kindergarten or a new school, there's nothing to say you can't get it in advance. And if you love Tara Lazar's, and/or Melissa Crowton's, sense of humor, you probably should check out this book.

Tara and Melissa have created a humorous picture book where the text could, if read without seeing the illustrations, be a typical "how to survive your first day of school" book. But, when you add Melissa's images and the particular words she chose to highlight, you get the funniest school day ever.

Your First Day of Circus School

Author: Tara Lazar

Illustrator: Melissa Crowton

Publisher: Tundra Books (2019)

Ages: 3-7



First day jitters, circus, humor, and siblings.


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages! It's the most amazing day on earth: the first day of school! It can be a daunting prospect, but don't worry - your big brother can show you the ropes. Join a nervous boy and his enthusiastic older brother as they navigate the highs and lows of a first day at school . . . except this school is a big top, and the teacher is named Miss Stupendous, and the cafeteria can be a zoo, literally! It turns out, school isn't so scary when you can let off steam during recess (on a steam train) and walk on stilts to all of your classes. With a bit of help from family and some new friends, you'll make it to the top of the class in no time! This charming take on school readiness will delight new school-goers and take a bit of the fear out of those first-day jitters.

Opening Lines:

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages!

It's the most amazing day on earth:


What I liked about this book:

This is quite simply a great new premise for a "first day of school" book. Kids will enjoy following the main character and his pet mouse (Melissa's addition) through the first day of circus school. All the typical worries (what to wear, nerves, how to get there, making friends, etc.) are explored with a dash of humor and bit of clowning around. Loaded with jokes for all ages, and a fun sibling relationship, this book will have kids soaring into the school year with ease.

The lively images, painted with the limited palette of yellow, pink, blue, and grey, are so playful and the perfect complement to Tara's condensed text. This is a great mentor book for examining a 50-50 partnership between the words and the illustrations. For instance, when the text says, "Don't worry, the bus has an ENDLESS number of seats," the illustration shows a clown car!

Text © Tara Lazar, 2019. Image © Melissa Crowton, 2019.

Tara and Melissa do an excellent job continuing this dichotomy between the words and the text throughout the book. For instance - "School looks BIG!" especially when it's a giant big top tent and "the tall kid" turns out to be an elephant. My favorite illustration is the school cafeteria.

Text © Tara Lazar, 2019. Image © Melissa Crowton, 2019.

In addition to finding new things in the illustrations, there are nuances in the text that really come through in subsequent readings. While it might upset some people because of the bad connotations given to circus' these days, all the "acts" (except for a tower of puppies) are executed by humans and the animals are all "free range." They participate in the classroom, cafeteria, and train ride as equals to the kids. What a fun way to ease worries over a new school year. This will make a good addition to any classroom or library.


- read Melissa Crowton's interview with Tara (;

- create a circus school of your own, complete with flaming hoops! (;

- write a story or draw a picture of your favorite circus act; or

- try a couple of fun first day activities. (

If you missed Tara Lazar's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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