The Enid Blyton Society
Mr Galliano's Circus
Back Book 1 of 3 in this category Next

Book Details...

First edition: 1938
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: E.H. Davie
Category: Mr Galliano's Circus
Genre: Circus
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Reprint Covers
Artwork
Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

Reprints


1st edition, illustrated by E.H. Davie



Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by E.H. Davie



New edition (1940), illustrated by E.H. Davie



New edition (1942), illustrated by E.H. Davie
Quite a while before Philip Mannering began charming the wolf-dogs in the hills and the bears in the circus camp there existed another boy — a younger one, who possessed similar talents which means that the search for someone who can equal Philip's prowess might be over. This cannot be confirmed however until all the books about Mr. Galliano's circus are explored. There are three volumes and they were written during the years when Enid Blyton was producing her best work. The first book introduces an extremely likeable young boy who made me think of Rupert the Bear as I read through the pages. Rupert was a remarkably kind and stable individual who was always willing to help others. He performed all the tasks asked of him and his standards were high. Jimmy is the same and at least one stage he returns good for evil so he's a real credit to his parents.
Jimmy Brown is not a newsboy ... he's a youngster who lived with his father and mother in fairly ordinary circumstances. One day after school he rushes out to watch Galliano's Circus parade march through the village. What a thrilling sight — caravans, horses, a clown, an elephant and little monkeys dressed in warm red coats. Mr. Galliano himself is in a carriage and he looks terribly smart with his curly moustache and top hat which he doffs when bowing to the crowds lining the road. A pretty little girl with dark brown curls and eyes as blue as cornflowers comes along on a white horse and as she passes by she makes a face at Jimmy and tries to flick him with her little whip. "You're a naughty girl!" shouts Jimmy but she just laughs and pulls another face.

Jimmy can't attend the performance because his father has been out of work for about a year. His mother brings in enough money to keep them alive by doing a bit of washing and scrubbing so a trip to the circus is out of the question. Jimmy decides to visit the place where it's camped as a second-best option. He wanders around amongst the caravans and despite being shouted at by one or other of the circus-folk and warned off at one stage by Mr. Galliano himself, Jimmy is lucky enough to be hailed at by a cute little lass who could well be Carlotta, a circus girl known to many Blyton fans and whose school experiences were followed in the landmark 'St. Clare's' series. Carlotta or Lotta as she's called is the little horse-rider who had been in the circus procession. She allows Jimmy to take a peep inside her parents' caravan and the boy wishes fervently that he could live in one too. He visits most evenings and Lotta who turns out to be quite a little rascal has been endowed with one or two of those idiosyncrasies that Enid Blyton liked to inject into the personalities of selected characters. The little girl is cheeky — she pulls faces at her friends when she feels like it, and she's not averse to dealing out the odd pinch with her strong little hands. Despite these characteristics, Jimmy is drawn to her and they become firm friends over the next few days during the boy's visits to the camp in the late afternoons or evenings. Lotta introduces him to various circus folk and he marvels at their talents. There's Lilliput who has a troupe of monkeys including a very mischievous one called Jemima. Sticky Stanley is the resident clown. There's Oona the very talented acrobat and Mr. Tonks who's in charge of Jumbo (what else would you call an elephant?). Jimmy is also introduced to the love of his life — dogs. There are ten of them — all terriers who are handled by Lotta's mother 'Lal' and they perform all kinds of tricks in the ring. Jimmy's a very lucky boy to be shown round like this because you'd think that all the local guys and girls would be hanging around the camp but it's not so. A good part of the reason why Jimmy is so accepted by the circus folk must surely be his likeable nature. He's a kind and unassuming soul and it's clear that the animals accept him as well. The elephant even lifts him up in his trunk and in Mr. Tonk's own words — "Jumbo never does that to any one unless he really likes them." Jimmy even ends up riding on the elephant's head and taking him down to the stream every day for a drink.

There's only one man that Jimmy doesn't like very much and that's Harry. He's the odd-job man who is a little short-tempered with the animals — Jimmy spots him trying to hit Jemima the monkey one day. Complete acceptance of an outsider wandering around amongst the caravans and helping out with the animals is not valid until Mr. 'Big' is happy with the situation. It turns out that he is because the word's got round that the little boy is great with animals and very helpful. Poor Jimmy is resigned to the fact that he cannot attend the circus performance and that's the situation until Mr. Galliano hears of it. "What! This boy hasn't seen our circus show? He must come, Lotta, he must come tonight! Yes!" That's an instant free ticket for Jimmy and who would be more deserving?

There are parts of this book that could make the more sensitive people shed tears because it's a classic example of a child's dreams gradually becoming reality and this is just one instance. Will he get a good seat? Look here — when you receive a ticket from Mr. Galliano's own hands you may sit anywhere in the tent that you wish. Don't worry whether it's a booked seat or not — it's yours and that's the finish of it! Jimmy attends the circus. What a magnificent show. It could be a little boring reading about the different acts coming on and the onlookers clapping until their hands are sore but not in this case because the writer is Enid Blyton and that lady could make even the most mundane things sound interesting. The various acts are described and we all join in with the excitement The wonderful horses do their bit as does Sticky Stanley the clown, Oona the acrobat and Lal with her dogs. Jimmy's face was red with excitement and happiness. How wonderful the circus folk were in the things they could do and in their love for their animals. What's coming on now? The horses again and who's that with them? Jimmy doesn't recognise the lovely girl. She's wearing a fairy dress with silvery wings on her back. Her dark curls (Lotta has dark curls) are fluffed out round her head and her long legs are encased in silvery stockings. "It can't be Lotta!" says Jimmy to himself but sure enough, the little ragamuffin has left her ragged old frock behind in the caravan and is now a vision of beauty complete with a silver crown on her head and a silver wand in her hand. She waves her wand at Jimmy then pulls a face at the boy as she passes by — wicked Lotta! She proceeds to astound the audience by standing on a horse's back as it canters around the ring. Is there anyone cleverer than her? As it happens, there is because her own father, Laddo, who has been performing tricks on horses far longer than his daughter, enters wearing a tight blue shining suit with glittering stars sewn all over it. I won't describe what he does because you wouldn't believe me! Galliano's Circus gives its all to the packed audience and it's a particularly marvelous experience for young Jimmy sitting at the front as a guest of Mr. Galliano himself.

In the weekend, Jimmy visits the circus camp for a whole day at the invitation of his young friend, Lotta. Gloom has descended on the performers and this is because Harry the odd-job man has done a moonlight flit with the week's takings! Jimmy has an idea. His own father is a carpenter — just the sort of man needed to replace crooked Harry. Would he countenance such an upheaval? Lotta's parents consider his bold idea and it's put to the circus-owner himself. "Tell him to come and see me this evening, yes," says Galliano. In the meantime, Jimmy and Lotta take the dogs out for a walk and Lotta comments on the way they are attracted to the boy. There's no doubt about it, Jimmy's got a real gift where animals are concerned. The two children roam the countryside and let the dogs loose for a good run and very unfortunately, one of them — Darky, is lost! They return with only nine terriers and that's a clear example of an incident that could be typical of everyday circus life.

They have a lovely meal sitting outside Lotta's caravan — sausages and potatoes cooked in their jackets with butter and salt. Oranges and chocolate follow that and then to Jimmy's place they go and Mr. Brown is informed of the chance for work at the circus. After that they all sit down to tea. Enid Blyton never saw her characters short of food! Lotta is on her best behavior and doesn't pull a single face whilst she's with Jimmy's parents. Jimmy's father does commence work at the circus and Brownie, as he is called by everyone, proves to be an asset because he can turn his hand to anything when it comes to repairing benches and cages and replacing wheels on caravans. There's sadness though in his family because once the circus moves on, the man of the house will no longer be there.

Things are going well and there's an outward sign of this ... when the circus is flourishing, Mr. Galliano wears his top-hat with a tilt to the side. If things are not going well or if he is in a temper, the hat once again indicates his mood by its placement — straight up. This would certainly be the case if Jumbo the elephant went missing. Imagine losing a great big creature like that although being so large it shouldn't be hard to spot but much damage could be caused if it wasn't located quickly. A bizarre episode begins — a great storm blows up and in a fit of terror, Jumbo manages to pull loose from the rope that tethers him and blunder off into the night. Due to certain circumstances, Jimmy finds the pachyderm roaming the village streets under a sky full of thunder and lightening. He loses him again when the lightening flashes die down and darkness descends. He comes across the lit-up cottage of a gamekeeper where he stays the night and then sets off in the morning to continue his hunt ... basically, all kinds of things are happening and that's why the Galliano series is worthy of being included in the better EB works.

Jimmy's braveness and love of animals makes its mark on Mr. Galliano to such an extent that he offers accommodation to the whole Brown family. I believe the term is 'Make my day!' Well, Jimmy and his parents' 'Day' is made all right and they very happily join up. There's tremendous excitement as you can well imagine when their little house is emptied and they are given a little caravan for their accommodation. Lotta, who is so happy to think that Jimmy will be traveling with them, expresses her delight by pinching him hard. "It's a funny way of showing you're glad," says poor Jimmy rubbing his arm. "But you're a funny girl altogether, Lotta — more like a boy!" Oh No! Not another one ... EB liked to have a few of her girls adopt a more boyish approach to life, but in this case I think its only a temporary lapse because Lotta has two sides to her world — 'Life in the Camp' and 'Life in the Circus Ring' and no one could accuse her of looking boyish when she's in the latter!

There are beautiful times and memories to be retained by Jimmy in his new surroundings. Fires are lit in the evening whilst the horses graze nearby. Jumbo rests and feasts on his supper. It's nice to relax after a day of jolting and jerking along the road on the way to the next venue. Jimmy's first night is typical of many — E. H. Davie, the illustrator, has supplied a nice little picture of him and Lotta sitting around a fire near the caravans. Their day is not finished though because whilst all other children in the village are sleeping peacefully in their beds, the two circus kids get up to take the dogs for a walk.
"Isn't it lovely, Lotta!" said Jimmy, sniffing at the white may as they passed it. "And look at the moon!" The moon was coming slowly up over the hill in front of them. The countryside was bathed in light, pale and cold and silvery. They did not meet anyone, for the countryside was quite deserted. Only a lonely farmhouse shone in the moonlight not far off.
They return to the camp singing loudly. Lotta knows old circus ditties and Jimmy sings songs he'd learnt at school. The dogs are returned to their cage and the children speed off to their caravans. Jimmy cuddles down on the little mattress placed by his parents' bed. The windows are opened to let in the sweet air of the May night and the boy listens to the call of an owl in the wood. A big white star shines through the window. "I'm one of the circus folk now" he thinks sleepily. "I'm one of the circus-f-f-f ... " He sleeps.

The story continues and much of it can be imagined — the performances, humorous incidents with the animals, occasional scraps between Lotta and Jimmy. Little Lotta the scalawag learns a few things from the Browns — things such as tidying herself up and brushing her hair until it shines. She also learns to read! She's by no means dumb, but kids in such an environment are so busy with performances and traveling that often there's no time for embellishments. Jimmy himself picks up stuff from Lotta's world. He becomes a fairly proficient tight-rope walker and he further demonstrates his remarkable abilities with animals — especially the dogs.

The following days and weeks are very full for Jimmy. He has a few riding lessons from Lotta and because he looks so funny when he falls off he inspires a routine for Sticky Stanley the clown. The circus opens and Jimmy eagerly helps with the preparations and hands out props to the performers as they go on. He watches from the ring entrance and marvels at Lotta who performs a new trick on her horse. Mr. Brown earns good money and gets a bonus because he's so useful. Jimmy's mother gives school lessons to Jimmy and to Lotta although the girl is at first reluctant and has to be ordered to take them. One of the dogs becomes ill and Jimmy goes well out of his way to track down an old formula that cures the poor creature. Mrs. Galliano helps him to find the special herbs needed. Lotta's very impressed when she hears about it. She tells Jimmy that Mrs. Galliano used to be the cleverest acrobat in the world but when she got fat she gave it up. Enid Blyton talks in language that children understand. Could a nine year old visualize Mrs. Galliano as full-figured, physically challenged or a trifle corpulent?

A chimpanzee and handler join the circus. Mr. Wally and his ape go down well with the crowds. Jimmy learns how to treat Lotta when she doesn't come for lessons - he tracks her down and grabs her by the hair and hauls her to the caravan where his mother is waiting for them — "Here's a new monkey, Mother!" A most wonderful thing happens for the boy ... he becomes the proud owner of a pet which is sourced by Lal, Lotta's mother. Jimmy is advised to take a particular puppy by the owner, but he chooses a different one despite the man indicating that he's picked one that wouldn't be intelligent enough to learn tricks. It turns out that as far as dogs go, Jimmy's the cat's whiskers — he had used pure instinct and the puppy's behaviour and capabilities prove that his master's choice was dead on target. Jimmy names his pet 'Lucky' from a suggestion by Lotta it and it would be hard to find a cleverer dog — in fact it becomes famous, so famous that it's coveted by a very important person who's even bigger in his own way than Mr. Galliano and who sees Good Pickings in Jimmy's pet! An offer is made and Jimmy has a tough decision to make.

Another incident is when the chimp runs away after Mr. Wally, his owner, has a car accident. Jimmy, Lotta and Lucky are off and away on Lotta's horse in an endeavour to track him down. An anthropoid is seen as very dangerous by the general public. Gorillas and similar apes have been the subject of horror films such as The Beast that Killed Women or King Kong and there is a rising panic when such a creature is on the loose. A way of protecting lives is to get a gun and shoot the dangerous animal. Sammy's holed up somewhere and there's a policeman with a gun about to shoot him! What will be the result? There's plenty happening in this book which places it a little higher on the scale than the other circus stories which, although a great read, can't develop all that much because of their single publications status.

More things happen and one particularly important occasion is when Jimmy actually enters the circus-ring. What an honour. He's very successful but, because he's using his powers with animals to the hilt, there's an unexpected fly in the ointment. You see, he's working with Sammy the chimp and Mr. Wally, who is recovering from the accident with his car, is a little jealous. Jimmy's mother gives some sage advice and it's taken up at different times by the boy and also by Lotta — "The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping stones. Laugh at them, tread on them and let them lead you to something better."

Jimmy has Philip's 'special' voice which he uses when communicating with animals and he's called upon many times to calm down restless animals — in fact it's said that the boy is as good as Mr. Galliano with horses although Galliano is fantastic with animals in general and has been known to enter a cage of fighting tigers and calm them down with a few words! Philip may be able to do that but I can't see Jimmy doing so — yet! Through industry and loyalty, Jimmy earns a new caravan for his parents — a much bigger and more splendid one and there's all the excitement of moving in to it. Then The Marvel Brothers join the circus but are they made of the right stuff? They're certainly splendid acrobats but once again, are they right for the circus? This will be learnt in due course. Near the end, there's a reappearance of the rogue named Harry and Jumbo the elephant plays an important and exciting part in this.

Heartbreak is sudden. Lotta must go away. This can't be allowed to happen because she and Jimmy are such close friends. What will the boy do with no companion to roam with in the hills when the dogs need to be taken out? The thing to do is to follow Mrs. Brown's advice about stepping-stones but is that enough? Time will tell and this first installment of the Galliano Circus tales ends after nearly 220 pages and then the reader can gear up for the next exciting book that deals with the life of Jimmy Brown. Lotta? Only if that the little girl can be saved from having to leave Mr. Galliano's circus and all her loyal friends.
'Jimmy Brown the Newsboy' was a popular song which came out in England during the Skiffle Rage and that unusual word can be easily looked up by those who weren't around in those days.

It appears that 'may' is the blossom of the hawthorn. The author has written quite extensively about the different flowers and shrubs and is able to draw on her knowledge repeatedly when describing walks down country lanes and across the paddocks and fields of England.

The first name of Mr. Brown, Jimmy's Father, is Tom.

The references to Philip (Mannering) are comparisons. The Mannering boy possesses extraordinary talents where all creatures are concerned and this extends even to tiny ones such as lizards and slow-worms! Whether he could lure the birds from the skies is anyone's guess although his adopted brother — Jack, would certainly approach his capabilities where flying creatures are concerned. The two boys starred in the Bill Smugs series of adventure stories that Enid Blyton produced over the period between 1944 and 1955.

There's an episode in the book where Jumbo the elephant attacks Harry who ran off with the circus takings very early on. Apparently the elephant remembers some rough treatment at his hands but I couldn't see where this had happened. Harry was unkind to Jemima the monkey and possibly this has been interpreted as ill-treatment of the elephant.

Here's one for those who are fascinated by the workings of the human mind: Near the end, three new horse-riders join the circus. They are Juanita, Pepita and Lou (the first two would be females). About nine years later in another Enid Blyton book namely The Valley of Adventure, the three main villains are Juan, Pepi and Luis! These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.