Children’s Book Giveaway: The Circus Ship.
April 20, 2010

This week, I would like to draw your attention to one of my very favorite children’s books: The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen.

The Circus Ship is based loosely (and by “loosely,” I mean “VERY LOOSELY”) on an 1836 shipwreck.  In reality, a steamer carrying somewhere around one hundred passengers and a complete circus shipwrecked off the coast of Maine.  Many of the passengers and the animals perished.  One account that I found of the shipwreck described mothers throwing their babies overboard and jumping in after them.  It was a horrific marine disaster.

In the book, though, a circus ship shipwrecks off the coast of Maine…and nobody dies.  The honest captain and the selfish, horrid circus boss survive on a raft and the animals find safety on a nearby island.  At first, the island community finds the animals to be a bit of a nuisance, but their tune changes when a local shed catches fire and the tiger saves the little girl trapped inside.

Shortly thereafter, the greedy, awful circus boss arrives on the island in search of his animals.  So the community brainstorms a way to keep the animals safe and, well, I won’t spoil the end for you, but I promise that it does not disappoint.  It is the perfect way to bring a cheerful story full circle.

Pros: The book is written in rhyme, which makes it easy to read, and the illustrations are colorful and creative.  It is a captivating story and it is clear that author Van Dusen is very talented.  There is one page where all fifteen animals are hidden in plain view, and kids will enjoy finding them.  With older children, you can also discuss the differences between the real story and the fiction presented in the book.  It is a delightful read-aloud book for any age.

Cons: None, really.  We read this book nearly every day and I have yet to grow bored with it.  It is unique and fun to read.

Borrow or Buy: Buy.  One mother I recommended this to was disappointed – she felt the shipwreck and the over-the-top circus boss could easily frighten young toddlers.  Other parents I’ve suggested this book to, however, have enjoyed it immensely.

Reading tip: Last week was National Library Week and I completely missed it, so this week I would like to encourage you to make time and GO TO THE LIBRARY.  Let your child see you perusing and reading books and let your child choose books for you to read to them.  If you don’t know where to begin, ask the librarian for some direction.  He or she will love discussing some of their favorites with you.  The local library is a fantastic resource and a great place to encourage your child to read.

About the author: Chris Van Dusen is one of my favorite authors.  I love his illustrations and his imagination.  He is also clearly devoted to his family, which may have nothing whatsoever to do with creating a good book, but it certainly helped turn me into a fan.  As well, he writes a blog, which you can find here.

What to do: You can enter this giveaway by leaving a comment below or sending me an e-mail answering this question: do you have a favorite author or illustrator?  All you need is an e-mail address.  The giveaway ends Thursday evening at 9 P.M. Pacific Time and the winner will be announced Friday morning.  You can leave one entry every day, for a total of up to three entries.

For extra entries: This is on the honor system, so please be honest.  I will award you one extra entry if you vote for me at Top Baby Blogs by clicking here.  I am hoping to move up to the front page so that I can reach new readers and get them excited about reading to and with children too.  (I know it’s hard to tell if your vote counted – chances are that it did!)

To purchase this book: You can purchase The Circus Ship through (that link uses my affiliate code) or locate a local retailer through Indie

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  1. By on April 20, 2010

    My son and I love Robert Munsch…his books are funny.  Oli really likes “I have to go” (pee)

    I voted for you


  2. By on April 20, 2010

    I love, love, love, Shel Silverstein.  My little guy (aged 2.75) is quickly becoming a fan as well.

    Also, I voted for you!  :)


  3. By on April 20, 2010

    Graeme base is my absolutely favourite illustrator. AMAZING.


  4. By on April 20, 2010

    I have a million favorites, Dr. Seuss being the most obvious and well, fabulous!  My son is only three months so he doesn’t have one yet, I can’t wait for it though.

    Oh and I voted for you too.


  5. By Rose on April 20, 2010

    Sounds cute, perhaps I’ll check it out at the library to see if I like it, then if I do I will go buy it.  ;D


  6. By Heidi on April 20, 2010

    Oh, my, my favorite author and/or illustrator?  It’s a good thing I can post this on three different days…

    I love Ian Falconer (of _Olivia_ fame) and Jez Alborough (_Hug_ and _Tall_) right this minute.


  7. By Heidi on April 20, 2010

    I just voted for you.  :)


  8. By Kimberly O'Rosky on April 20, 2010

    My book list is constantly growing because of you - I love it! What a great question too! I’m so new to this genre so it will be fun to see what everyone post and hopefully find some new authors. I’ve always loved Silverstein. I use to check it out from the library constantly in elementary school until a friend finally bought me my own copies.

    Off to vote for you!!!


  9. By on April 20, 2010

    I voted for you. You are up to number 31!


  10. By on April 20, 2010

    I love Sandra Boynton books. They are fun and Bekah likes them also.


  11. By gretchen from lifenut on April 20, 2010

    I really love Richard Scarry’s older stuff, from before the Sally Cat and Lowly Worm days. I like them too, but his illustrations from the beginning of his career are my favorites.


  12. By Sarah on April 20, 2010

    I love Chris Van Allsburg, especially “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.“


  13. By Sarah on April 20, 2010

    I voted for you!


  14. By Sarah on April 20, 2010

    I lover Mercer Mayer.  His books and stories are simple, so young readers have an easy time reading and comprehending them.

    His illustrations are awesome.  They tell the story themselves - so non-readers can enjoy them as well.


  15. By Alicia on April 20, 2010

    Hands down favorite author is Dr. Seuss. We read The Lorax constantly.


  16. By Marla on April 20, 2010

    I don’t have one favorite… I like to many to choose just one. :)

    Marla @


  17. By on April 20, 2010

    We love Maurice Pledger.  His nature books are one of my 2 year old’s favorites.


  18. By on April 20, 2010

    Growing up was Dr. Seuss.  I thought Hop on Pop was hilarious and was always trying to jump on my dad while he was laying down on the couch after a long day at work :-)


  19. By on April 20, 2010

    Sounds like a great read


  20. By erin on April 20, 2010

    Does it have to be a children’s author?  If yes, my favorite children’s author is either Shel Silverstein or Roald Dahl.  If no, then my favorite author is hands down Barbara Kingsolver.  There could never be enough Barbara Kingsolver books in the universe.

    My favorite illustrator is Quentin Blake.  He did the illustrations for all the Roald Dahl books, as well as Joan Aiken’s children’s books (“Arabel and Mortimer” is one of my favorites).  Fab.u.lous.  They are just so wild and crazy and fun.  Lovelovelovelovelove.


  21. By beyond on April 20, 2010

    i have too many favorite authors and illustrators to name just one…
    i love these two photos of charlotte and her book.


  22. By Megan R. on April 20, 2010

    definitely Shel Silverstein!!!


  23. By Mailis on April 20, 2010

    I love Robert Vavra (Author of “tiger flower”) and Richard Scarry (“What Do People Do All Day”, etc)

    Yum. :)

    And I have voted for you every day for the past week…lol.


  24. By Cynthia A on April 20, 2010

    I have a million favorites…right now for illustrators:
    Helen Oxenbury, but tomorrow, I am sure someone different :)

    Voting for you.

    BTW, Charlotte is stinkin cute!!


  25. By Lauren @ In the Pudding Club on April 20, 2010

    Oh I second Roald Dahl.  Dominic was my favorite as a kid - and I ended up not joining the school band at age 10 because they didn’t have the picolo. 

    I voted for you as well. 

    This looks like such a great book Sarah - and great tip this week.  I love going to the library with Eloise - especially since they have children’s books in French so her daddy can read them too her.


  26. By on April 20, 2010

    We LOVE Eric Carle as both an author and illustrator. One of our favorites is A House for Hermit Crab. My daughter loves the vivid, colorful illustrations, and his books are fun to read, as well.

    Also, I voted for you!


  27. By Tabitha (From Single to Married) on April 20, 2010

    Favorite author?  That’s a tough one, I love lots of books, but I’m not so good at knowing the authors/illustrators.  I do love Shel Silverstein’s books though.


  28. By on April 20, 2010

    Hi Sarah,

    I am a friend of your sister, Rachel (via REI).  I am now in Baltimore studying public health and gearing up for medical school (to be an OB).  I absolutely LOVE your blog and have found it particularly insightful and helpful as I work with teen mothers in Baltimore to develop an infant feeding program (aka ... encourage them to breastfeed).  This has definitely been an interesting endeavor having never had a child and thus never having breastfed.  Your blog definitely put the difficulties one might encounter in to perspective.  Much appreciated!
    My favorite children’s illustrator / author is Todd Parr, but my most favorite children’s book is ‘If the World were a Village’ by David J Smith.  Todd Parr is bright and colorful and I think Charlotte would love his books.  ‘If the World were a Village’ is probably meant for a slightly older audience, but hey its never too early to introduce these books, right?  Both author and book celebrate the diversity of this great big world we live in ... something I one day hope to celebrate with my child / children.

    PS ... Working in an inner city where mothers are often not able to care for their children for a variety of different reasons, it is so very refreshing to read your blog and hear about a family, more specifically a mother, who cares so very deeply for her child.


  29. By Jaimey on April 20, 2010

    My favorite is Laura Numeroff and illistrator is Felicia Bond both from the If you give a ____ a____ series. (mouse/cookie, moose/muffin, pig/pancake) .

    LOVE them!


  30. By on April 21, 2010

    This book looks absolutely adorable!


  31. By Zoe @ Playing by the book on April 21, 2010

    Hi sarah,
    Did the books I sent to you arrive yet? I hope so!


  32. By Michelle on April 21, 2010

    I always really liked Shel Silverstein growing up…


  33. By on April 21, 2010

    Ok. So, Im still entering the universe of childrens books with my daughter. Thus, I really don’t have a favorite as of yet… Lots that I like, or enjoy… I really like, and Nia seems to as well, the slightly goofy illustrations. Ones that are not too perfect. They have rough lines, or exaggerated colors.

    So, I really didnt give a good answer… but I DID vote again :)


  34. By beyond on April 21, 2010

    entry number two… fingers crossed!


  35. By Mary @ Parenthood on April 21, 2010

    We like Robert Munsch over here too.  My sister recently wrote to him to tell him so and he wrote back!  It was pretty exciting ;)


  36. By on April 21, 2010

    My son absolutley loved Richard Scary!


  37. By Jenny | The Balow Bunch on April 21, 2010

    I voted for you.


  38. By Jenny | The Balow Bunch on April 21, 2010

    When I was a kid, my favorite children’s book author was Nancy Carlson. She’s a local author in Minnesota and visited my elementary school a couple of times. I have a couple of her books autographed.


  39. By on April 21, 2010

    I have to agree with Shel Silverstein. Bekah already laughs when I read Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. I think she realizes that it is all mixed up!


  40. By WaltzInExile on April 21, 2010

    She hasn’t illustrated many, but I love Katy Schneider’s work in “Painting the Wind.“


  41. By on April 21, 2010

    My little one’s current favorite is Boynton, especially Barnyard Dance.


  42. By Sarah on April 22, 2010

    oh my.

    Eric Carle, Jakki Wood, Dr. Suess, Jon Scieszka, David Shannon, Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder… what a hard question!!


  43. By on April 22, 2010

    Dr. Suess is another favorite for sure!


  44. By Mary @ Parenthood on April 22, 2010

    Another favourite of ours isn’t an author strictly speaking but the Usborne Noisy Touchy-Feely books are really popular.  Actually just the touchy ones (That’s not my monkey) are good too, but one of Elizabeth’s absolute favorites is “This is my duck”.  The biggest problem is that they had one good concept and then do the same thing over and over and over changing only the animal.  Elizabeth doesn’t seem to mind though.


  45. By on April 22, 2010

    I also love Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess.


  46. By teetotaled on April 22, 2010

    A new fav thanks to my husband’s aunt who sent us a copy of On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman when our daughter was born. I cannot get through that book without balling….it is beautiful!


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