Thursday, February 2, 2012


By Adam Rex

(Harcourt Books, 2006)

What a difference an ‘H’ makes. Yes, there is no typo in the title. This is a story about a Tree Ring Circus.

It all starts simply enough: “One seed in the ground, three miles out of town.” The seed grows into a massive tree with twisty, knotty limbs and a few last-stand leaves hanging on in autumn. Suddenly the tree becomes a resting place for nearby animals. “3 chipmunks, 2 sparrows, a whopping big bee all live in the tree where the seed used to be.” Whopping big is an understatement. The buzzer is twice the size of the chipmunks and sparrows. Still, there is plenty of room for each critter to settle in.

But more forest animals climb aboard. Along with a clown (as clowns are want to do). More animals, including “a cat who climbed up but can’t find her way down”.

As the type and number of animals are introduced, readers can enjoy a Where’s Waldo accounting of all creatures in the tree. It is also fun to flip back and forth to follow the movement and expressions of each animal. The chicken is rather stoic and sedentary, but I found great amusement in watching the cat take in all the changes.

And the changes become bigger and more startling as a traveling circus stops to search for an escaped clown. I shall not reveal more of the story other than to say the clown is something of a circus trendsetter.

No doubt, this book will produce giggles and gasps as the tree becomes a more popular abode. Tree Ring Circus is first and foremost a delightful source of entertainment. Still, Adam Rex makes a statement about circus animals. A class or a family could go much deeper in exploring the issue. Even better, connect this book with Rex’s zoo-based Pssst! to lead to a bigger discussion about animals in captivity.

I am so thankful Adam Rex turfed the ‘H’!

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