Fiction Friday - The Circus Ship

Today I want to share a picture book for my Fiction Friday post. I bought this book for my son, but I can easily see how I might use it in the classroom. 

The book I chose is "The Circus Ship" by Chris Van Dusen.  

Here is a description of the book taken from Chris Van Dusen's website.


When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the circus animals must stagger to the shore of a small island. At first the townspeople view them with suspicion, but it’s not long before locals and animals are sharing the island in harmony. Loosely based on a true historic event, The Circus Ship is a story about the bonds of friendship and community.

One of my favorite things about this book is the illustrations!  Take a peek at the page where the ship crashes and the animals and people fall out into the ocean.

My favorite page is when Mr. Paine, the circus owner, comes back to find his animals.  The animals are beautifully camouflaged into a town scene.  Some are obvious, but some took me several reads to find them.  Do you spy any animals?  


  • 2009 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award Winner
  • 2009 Lupine Award Winner
  • 2009 Minnesota State University Moorhead Comstock Honor Book
  • 2010 Read With ME book


This book was inspired by the absolutely unbelievable wreck of The Royal Tar which sank off the coast of Maine. I added an Author’s Note at the back of the book which tells the true story of the 1836 tragedy.

****Taken from Chris Van Dusen's website***

I debated this book as part of Fiction Friday.  Since it was inspired by a real event, I thought it would still work because what happens in the story is fiction.  

Ways you can use this book in your classroom:

  • Vocabulary - There are lots of examples of vivid vocabulary that students may not have heard of before, especially younger ones (bedraggled, daft, etc).
  • Figurative Language - There are several examples of alliteration, similes, and onomatopoeia.
  • Character comparisons - Students could compare the circus owner, Mr. Paine, and the ship's captain, Mr. Carrington.  They could use the text to provide evidence that backs up their view of the character.  


  1. I will have to check this book out for my class and my own personal children. It looks really great. I am your newest follower. If you get a chance I would love for you to stop by and check out my blog.


  2. Don't you just love how you can take things that you do with your son and begin to bring them into your classroom? Just wait until the day that everything you do with him educationally will be applicable. It truly makes you look very carefully at how and what you are doing as a teacher. Planning this summer has been so amazing, and deep down, I know it is because I am partially doing it for my oldest child. :) Let's hope I still feel this way a few months into the year!;)
    Creating Lifelong Learners
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  3. Hi Lana! I've actually read this post twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. LOL. It's just too hard to comment on my phone. This book looks wonderful! I love the clever illustrations. I'm so glad you choose to post about it. Fiction or inspired by good events...Fiction Friday is really about good books!! :) Thanks for linking up!!

    The Teaching Thief

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