Wednesday, January 6, 2010

REVIEW: Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo: The most amazing, bizarre and celebrated circus performers

Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo?

Beccia, C.  (2007).  Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo?  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin.


Appetizer:  This picture book alphabet book goes letter by letter sharing information about the circus that has come to town, from seeing its ad in the newspaper to the performances and to the circus zipping away after the show is over.

While each letter is emphasized in the heart of each page, there is also more detailed footnoted information about the history of circuses and some of the terms they've given us (like "hold your horses").

The illustrations are fun, capturing the sense of magic the circus is meant to share.  Most of the pages are shaped and positioned as though each could be an ad for the circus.  Which students just might want to attend after seeing this book.

My main concern with this book is that it doesn't mention the darker side of some circuses, like how many of the animals were abused or how some of the customers were taken advantage of (although one page does give an example of a hoax).  Now, some would say that it's not necessary for a picture book to take on the kind of discussion.  But since the book does include a lot of facts about the circus, I think there could be a space for it.

Dinner Conversation:

"A is for awesome
A show for all ages
death defying act
and strange beasts in cages"

"On circus day, circus performers paraded through town with brightly colored bandwagons on there way to the circus lot."

"B is for boastful noisy ballyhoo...The "ballyhoo" was a free show given outside a circus to entice customers into buying tickets."

"I is for imaginary.
Golden horn & white coat
is Lance a unicorn
or a one-horned goat?"

To Go with the Meal:

Since chances are good a young reader probably won't want to read the footnoted information, this could be a team read between a teacher and student, with the student taking responsibility for the words in the illustrations and the adult covering the factoids.

This is not the type of alphabet book that you give to a three-year-old to learn the shape and sounds of the letters.  Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo would be better for older readers, either to learn more about the circus (then and now) or for a reluctant reader who has a special interest in circuses.

Students could research aspects of circus life after reading the book, like the history of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, some of the more famous performers (whose names are shared throughout the book), some of the genetic or hormonal conditions that made some people "freaks" for the circus.

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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