Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Traveling Circus

The Traveling Circus

Marie-Louise Gay , David Homel
Illustrator:   Marie-Louise Gay 
For ages 7 to 10
Groundwood Books, 2015   ISBN: 978-1554984206

One day Charlie accidentally finds an old postcard under the fridge. The postcard was written by Fred, his father’s friend who lives in a place called Krk, which is in Croatia. Two years ago Fred invited Charlie’s father and his family to come and visit, but back then they went to France instead. When he sees the postcard Charlie’s father becomes enthusiastic about visiting Fred. Needless to say Charlie is not happy about this development. His parents have an annoying habit of taking him and his little brother, Max, on vacations to off-the-beaten-track places, and more often than not their vacations are fraught with unpleasant adventures. Why on earth would anyone want to go to a “country broken up by war” where people speak “a language with no vowels.”

   It turns out that this is just the kind of place that Charlie’s parents want to visit, and in the summer Charlie and Max find themselves arriving, exhausted and jet lagged, in Venice airport. The boys are keen to see Venice, but somehow they ‘accidentally’ end up in Padua instead. Charlie learns that Padua is where Saint Anthony, Grandma’s favorite saint, is buried. Charlie’s mother would like to get Grandma memento from Padua, and so they go into the cathedral and look around, which is when they lose Max. The irony is not lost on Charlie. Here they are in the place where the patron saint of lost things is buried and they lose Max. Thankfully, Charlie knows his brother well, and by thinking like him he is able to find Max without too much difficulty.

   The brothers run into more trouble when the family arrives at the border between Serbia and Croatia. While they are waiting to have their passports looked at by the border guards, Max announces that he needs to go to the bathroom. As per usual, Charlie is given the job of taking his younger brother to the nearest tree that offers some privacy. When the boys try to rejoin their parents, soldiers stop them. Apparently they accidentally crossed the border without permission and they are in Croatia. Without their passports. Max and Charlie manage to charm the guards using the only Croatian phrase they know, and they are soon reunited with their parents.

   Eventually Charlie and his family get to Fred’s apartment, and they find out that a group of them are going to the island of Krk. Trying to get Fred and his wife, his friends, and Charlie’s family into two cars is not an easy task, but they somehow manage. They take a car ferry, one that is big enough for only two cars, to the island, and some time later, after near colliding with a herd of goats, they arrive at their destination. Charlie quickly sees that this is, once again, going to be a very singular vacation.

   This is the fourth family vacation book that Marie Louise Gay and her husband David Homel have written together, and it is just as delightful and funny as the first three books were. Once again Charlie and Max have a vacation that is full of bizarre adventures and colorful characters, and once again readers will find themselves laughing as Charlie and Max try to cope with the peculiar adults who seem to fill their lives.