The circus is coming. Send in...the Big Red Dog? As a matter of fact, yes! This month, our partners at Scholastic Canada have sent us a wonderful book to go along with our circus theme: "Clifford at the Circus" by Norman Bridwell.
Since the original book in the series was published over 40 years ago, Clifford and his human Emily Elizabeth have been favourites of children and parents everywhere. Each Clifford book tells an engaging story about the adventures of the gigantic dog as he participates in typical childhood activities. Woven into each story is a message about important life skills such as the value of friendship.
Capitalizing on these lessons, Scholastic has recently reissued many of the Clifford books as part of a special "Be Big" series. While the content of the stories in the "Big Big" series has not changed, Scholastic has placed a badge on the cover on each book that identifies the character lessons that the book emphasizes.
"Clifford at the Circus" focuses on working together. In the story, Clifford and Emily Elizabeth are excited to hear that the circus has come to their town. When they arrive, however, they learn that everything is going wrong, and the circus owner may have to cancel the show. Emily Elizabeth and Clifford offer their assistance, and soon Clifford is "helping out" as an animal trainer, a clown, a tightrope walker and more. Although Clifford's idea of help is not exactly conventional, he and Emily Elizabeth manage to save the show in their own unique way.
The book is a wonderful introduction to the different entertainers that may be part of a circus performance, and is a great jumping off point for all sorts of circus themed extension activities, from crafts to imaginative play and gross motor skill building games. Through the book, kids can see how a person can use his or her unique skills and abilities to help others, even when our uniqueness means that the way we are able to help may be different than what is "normal".
I read the book with a group of children ranging in age from two years old to five years old, and it was enjoyed by everyone in the audience. The younger kids were engaged by the funny, whimsical illustrations, and the older kids appreciated the elements of silliness and surprise. I can see this book easily becoming part of our rotation of regular reads.
After storytime, we created our own scenes of Clifford walking the tightrope. Clifford is attached to a popsicle stick, and slit is cut in the paper underneath the ribbon "tightrope" so that kids can move Clifford along the rope:
To make your own Clifford on the Tightrope craft, you will need:
- construction paper in a variety of colours
- a print out of Clifford (available from the Scholastic website)
- foam alphabet stickers (optional)
- a small exacto knife (optional, but helpful)
- a popsicle stick
- crayons, markers, or pencil crayons
- tape (optional)
1. Print off and colour an image of Clifford:
2. Use scissors to trim the extra paper around Clifford, leaving just his image. Glue or cut the image onto a popsicle stick:
3. Cut two long, thin rectangles out of construction paper, and glue on to either side of your background paper. These will form the poles for your tightrope. Cut and glue a square on top of either pole. These squares will be the platforms that Clifford walks between:
4. Poke a hole towards the edge of each platform. These will be the holes through which you insert your "tightrope" ribbon. Use a ruler and an exacto knife to cut a horizontal slit in the paper between the two poles.
5. Thread ribbon through each of the holes, and either knot or tape on the back of the paper to secure.
6. Insert the popsicle stick up through the slit. The popsicle stick should be on the back of the paper, and Clifford should be on the front. Use the popsicle stick to move Clifford along the popsicle stick.
7. If you would like, add foam letters to spell "circus".