- The Show Must Go On! by Kate Klise
Kind Sir Sidney, circus owner, wants to take a break from show biz and hires Barnabas Brambles to take over for a week so Sidney can get some R&R. Barnabas Brambles is no Sir Sidney, however: he raises ticket prices, increases the number of shows, cuts back on meals for the animals and performers, and threatens them with his whip if they rebel. His mercenary tactics backfire, though, leaving him barely solvent and facing an angry crowd alone, as many of his performers are unable to perform by the end of the week. Gert and Bert, two mice who travel with the circus, and Old Coal, a crow pal of Sir Sidney’s, come to his rescue with a wake-up call to his better nature and a song and dance number that wows the crowd. Convinced that Barnabas has learned his lesson, Sir Sidney agrees to give him another chance at running the circus. Barnabas’ greedy posturing makes him a humorous buffoon, and the animal characters are lovable and entertaining. There [End Page 221] are also a few learning opportunities in the vocabulary lessons offered up by Gert and Bert as well as in Barnabas’ calculations of his profits. Still, the tidy resolution is fairly contrived and unoriginal, none of the characters have much depth, and the ecstatic reception of the lackluster big musical finale strains credulity. Nonetheless, the combination of straightforward text, word bubbles, lists, notes, and plentiful, attractive monochromatic illustrations provides an accessible alternative to conventional, pictureless novels. Kids looking for a quick, amusing read and adults looking for an engaging title with some added educational oomph might find this just the ticket.