________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007


The Painted Circus: P.T. Vermin Presents a Mesmerizing Menagerie of Trickery and Illusion Guaranteed to Beguile and Bamboozle the Beholder.

Wallace Edwards.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2007.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55337-720-7.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**** /4


Ladies and gentlemen! Hold onto your hats, heels, wigs and lollipops! For I, P. T. VERMIN, ringmaster extraordinaire, am about to take you on a magical tour of visual trickery and optical illusions. I bring you the greatest show in the galaxy—I bring you THE PAINTED CIRCUS!

Wallace Edwards is a Governor General’s Award winner for Illustration of Children’s Literature. A tour through his new book, The Painted Circus, provides ample evidence of why he is so highly regarded. And a tour it is—a tour de force. Painted Circus is no ordinary picture book. Edwards has managed to capture the theatrics, the wonder, the drama, the excitement and the colour of a big top circus performance. The Painted Circus is, however, more than just a circus tale. In this book, Edwards has combined his interest in circuses, magic and illusions (and, of course, fine art) and created a visual treat.

internal art

     A little mouse with a big voice, P. T. Vermin acts as ringmaster and tour guide. Vermin leads us through acts ranging from Lester the Jester (a balancing tiger) to El Porko (a tattooed pig), and from Spuds Galore (a mashed-potato throwing bull) to Zippy (a racing zebra) and a number of other equally marvelous acts. Regardless of the admission fee, this would assuredly be a value-for-money circus.

     It is Edwards’ masterful illustrations that steal the show. The full colour illustrations were rendered in watercolour, coloured pencil and gouache. Additional pen and ink line drawings adorn the borders of each painting. It is, however, the illusions created in each illustration that are the most intriguing aspect of the book. The eye and the mind are tricked into seeing things that are not really there, or into seeing things in a variety of ways.

     I must confess that, by the time I was done with the book, my eyes had become tired. Nevertheless, I guess in many ways that is, in itself, testament to the appeal of The Painted Circus. What’s more, the longer one gazes upon the illustrations, more and more quirky details become evident amongst the circus performers and the faces in the crowd.

     At book’s end, a further page is dedicated to assisting readers to identify the illusions contained within each painting. This highly interactive book is sure to intrigue readers young and old.

Highly Recommended.

Gregory Bryan teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.