The Enid Blyton Society
Circus Days Again
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Book Details...

First edition: 1942
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: E.H. Davie
Category: Mr Galliano's Circus
Genre: Circus
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Terry Gustafson
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Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by E.H. Davie
There are certain words, phrases or circumstances that can spring to the reader's mind whenever a particular book is opened. In the previous one belonging to this series it was the thought of Lotta the circus child grabbing a hairdresser's scissors and proceeding to lop off her own tresses. In Circus Days Again, the key-word for me is Britomart! Where the author found this word could be anyone's guess but a 'Britomart' could be one of those great big shopping-malls where young people congregate to chat each other up or maybe it signifies a unit of British currency. It's quite a nice word — easy enough to pronounce and it plays a big part in this final book about Mr. Galliano's circus.
Mirabel Unwin is just one of a few people in the Enid Blyton stories who learnt a severe lesson about the need to use power wisely. When you possess the ultimate authority it's not advisable to boss people around incessantly whilst, at the same time, withholding praise and encouragement — which is why so many dictators have fallen abruptly out of power due to their ignorance of such a life skill.
Jimmy Brown is with Mr. Galliano's circus. He wasn't originally of that mould but his incredible skills with animals drew him to his present position and his parents were happy to throw in their lot with him. His father is employed as a carpenter and handyman and his mother, presumably, keeps the caravan clean and tidy but she also dispenses a little education to her son and to Lotta who is the only other child in the Galliano fold. Lotta is a born and bred circus girl of about Jimmy's age and she's so good at horse-riding that it's a fairly sure bet she'll eventually surpass her father, Laddo, who is right up there in the upper ranks as far as horsemanship is concerned. Jimmy and Lotta who are known as the Wonder Children perform for the masses together with the rest of the talented group — there's Stanley or 'Sticky Stanley' the clown and Lilliput with his monkeys (Jemima has to be mentioned here because she's Lilliput's favourite little primate and she's extremely mischievous). Then there's Oona the acrobat and Mr. Wally with his chimpanzee — Sammy, and we mustn't forget Mr. Volla with his performing bears and Mr. Tonks who owns the largest animal of all. Lotta's parents show off their troupe of wonderfully trained horses and dogs and the two Wonder Children ... Jimmy with his amazingly talented dog Lucky and Lotta with her lovely horse Black Beauty perform very professionally indeed. Lotta is a real daredevil on her horse and Jimmy's dog displays a fantastic repertoire of tricks which she owes to the patience and understanding of her master.

The circus has arrived at Bigminton where they are to acquire another act. Oona the acrobat has a cousin who owns a dozen or so performing parrots so he, together with Jimmy and Lotta pay a visit to the parrot-expert and once again Jimmy demonstrates his amazing powers over creatures by showing that it is not only tigers and bears who will eat off his hand (I don't mean bite it off) but his aura also includes birds. Is Jimmy the King of all Enid Blyton characters who are able to charm the lesser creatures of the world? Oona's relative is known as Madame Prunella and she becomes a very welcome addition to Galliano's renowned circus. She's just the type of fat, comradely woman you would imagine as being in a circus or fairground or perhaps trundling along with a band of gypsies — a real character, but please beware of her when she suddenly throws a tantrum. Get out quickly if you value your body. Madame Prunella's fits of violent temper are spectacular but they're over in a twinkling and then she is, once again, her likeable old self.
The main thrust of this book commences during the second week on a really windy evening. It's such a gale that an unbelievable thing happens — the Big Top is wrenched from its mooring ropes and blown away over the field. Fortunately the circus has just finished and the crowds have departed — however the disappearance of the tent is not the only problem. Two of Mr. Volla's bears are terrified by the great flapping entity and they tear away from their owner and disappear completely. The search is on in the dark of night amidst the terrible screeching of the gale but the bears are history — better wait until the morning. Jimmy hearkens back to an incident in his life when Sammy the Chimp escaped from his confines and was almost shot by a well-meaning but understandably ignorant member of the constabulary so he decides to act. He enlists Lotta's help and together with Lucky, Jimmy's dog, they set off to search further out and the raging night yields them an unexpected adventure when, led by Lucky's sensitive nose, they end up on the beach — but where are the bears?
The moon sailed out again and the restless sea tossed beneath the silver light. Another great wave came swirling up the beach and the children jumped up onto a rock to escape it.

Jimmy looked back, "We're cut off!"
With Lucky, they proceed to climb a nearby cliff to escape being drowned and they reach a ledge overlooking the vast ocean which is lit up now and again by the moon swimming in and out of the clouds. Then a cave is spotted and this offers welcome shelter from the elements but they are not the only occupiers. Dobby and Grizel, the escaped bears have taken up residence as well and the children, who are completely unafraid of them, spend the night cuddled up together against the bears' warm and furry bodies. Yes, Mr. Volla's escapees are no longer lost but how are the children going to get them back to the circus? In the morning a couple of fishermen are willing to help although a little reluctant when they see what's going to be sharing their boat but, despite their assistance, it's not enough of a solution so more help has to be sought. A feature of the situation is that the children should never have gone off alone without notifying anyone and they must answer to the strict ring-master himself — Mr. Galliano. The feathers are going to fly but wait, there's more, — Madame Prunella has disappeared!

Mr. Galliano — berating Jimmy with Lotta standing nearby: "You have nothing to say to me? The bears go, you go, Lotta goes and Madame Prunella goes! My whole circus can go for all I care!" He cracks his whip round Jimmy's feet ... then, unexpectedly, Lotta makes a discovery and it's enough to set Mr. Galliano beaming again with his hat on the side of his head. His top-hat indicates what kind of a mood he's in and if it's worn straight up, he's in a bad mood which means you'd better keep well clear.
The circus is on the road again. Jimmy and Lotta thrive on the life and interact with each other during fair winds or foul. "Don't go near the zebras, they'll kick you all to bits. Don't go near the seal in case it frightens you to fits. Don't go near the elephant in case you make it bray. Don't go near the monkeys they'll make you run away!" That's Lotta reciting as she walks round Jimmy balanced on her hands. The references are valid because a seal and some zebras are about to join the circus. Three new clowns are also due — Twinkle, Pippi and Google. On page #58 (or thereabouts) the word Britomart makes an appearance ... the time is coming!

Lotta wants to ride a zebra! She voices her urge to Jimmy and is overheard by Mr. Galliano. Despite Lotta's acknowledged competency, he forbids it at once. "Zebras are not horses. They are dangerous animals. They can never be properly tamed." The circus-owner and, presumably Enid Blyton, are adamant but ... Lotta hasn't promised not to! Would she have the ability to handle a wild steed like a zebra? Personally, I think 'Yes' but that's due to past knowledge of the girl which includes an incident that occurred in the book before this one. The zebras arrive and then the performing seal. The latter is accompanied by his owner — Pierre, his wife, and two pretty, red-haired daughters who are named Jeanne and Lisa. These new girls don't seem to be very nice at all as far as Jimmy is concerned and they don't make a very good start in their relations. Lotta rather likes them — perhaps because they are of circus stock and she can accept them more readily than Jimmy and there's also the fact that they have some dolls which possess much appeal because Lotta has never owned one. Jimmy is disappointed because he would rather have Lotta to himself than share her with these bold and uncouth females however, he takes a great liking to Pierre's seal and his magic works once again showing that even aquatic mammals cannot resist his charms. The clowns turn up — all three of them. Two are friendly but one is more reserved in character and Jimmy doesn't like the look of him all that much.

The days go by and we are not left without the various descriptions of everyday life which the author was so good at passing on — the interesting asides which teach us a little more about the day-to-day existence of Galliano's employees. One problem arises — the seal-owner's daughters have it in for Jimmy and are not averse to telling fibs about him which means that difficulty could be brewing for the young lad. Jeanne and Lisa are out to cause trouble it seems!
Almost halfway through the book, the scene is set for disruption such as Galliano's circus has never experienced and the rest of the general theme is connected with this. It begins with the arrival of Britomart who is yet another addition to the circus programme. Yes, Britomart is a man, but what a man. He's the classic tall, dark and handsome male and he sports a curling moustache which is even bigger than Mr. Galliano's. He is essentially a conjurer who has carried the art of magic to new heights and he also has much experience with circuses having run them before today. His eyes are as black as his hair and they glitter coldly which is enough to give anyone the creeps — especially the children. Living in a camp is beneath him so he will stay at the biggest hotel in the nearby town and commute.

Mr. Galliano's circus opens. It is bigger now with more acts, a larger tent and a new ring. The admission will be a little higher but that's understood because more people have to be paid but they will be giving their very best together with the selected animals or birds they possess. There are Lotta's parents, Lal and Laddo, with their amazing horses and dogs. Mr. Wally with his chimp, Lilliput and his monkeys and Madame Prunella with her colourful parrots not to mention the marvelous new seal act and the zebras which trot around the ring and play football. The clowns throw fruit and vegetables at each other, Lotta on Black Beauty thrills the spectators as she rivals Oona with her acrobatic stunts, and Jimmy gives a splendid show with Lucky his talented little terrier. Then of course there's the Ringmaster himself — Mr. Galliano who is resplendent in top hat and magnificent suit with his great whip which he cracks every time an act enters the ring. It seems, however, that the most astonishing performer of all is one of the newcomers — Britomart, who stuns the audience with his magical powers and incredible juggling ability. His deep voice is impressive as he goes through his routine and after about twenty minutes he strides out followed by the loudest cheers Jimmy and Lotta have ever heard. The conjuror never smiled once!
Much to Jimmy's disappointment, Lotta is right into playing dolls with Jeanne and Lisa and the boy seems very much left out but life must go on and it does with the new performers settling in and being accepted by the rest of the circus folk although Google the clown and Pierre's daughters are on the fringes as is Britomart but he's not generally around in between shows.

A dreadful thing happens. Mrs. Galliano's life is threatened with an illness and she must go away for treatment. Mr. Galliano will accompany her because they have a very close relationship and the circus must come second when a problem like this arises. Who will run the show in Galliano's absence? There seems only one eligible person and thatís none other than the awesome Britomart, so he takes over the reins when the circus proprietor and his wife leave for other places much to the sadness of the performers! Then begins a time of trial for the circus, and although it is certainly being run well by the new Ringmaster, the problems are linked to personalities and attitudes. The headstrong Lotta is the first to feel the pressure of the jackboot after she performs a stunt involving the zebras. She is punished and then she comes further under the bad influence of Jeanne and Lisa — Pierre's daughters. Madame Prunella is another who's not impressed with the way things are going and her attitude to Britomart is reflected in the talents of 'Sally' — one of her parrots, who declares: "Britomart thinks he's smart, but he's got a stony heart!" Britomart is laying down the law and the easy-going life that everyone led under the rule of Galliano is very much threatened.

A letter arrives from Mr. Galliano to the effect that he will be away for rather a long time with his sick wife. It would be a terrible thing if she didn't survive but she's receiving all the treatment possible for her illness. Jimmy helps Lilliput in a new act. Lisa and Jeanne cause trouble for Jimmy. Madame Prunella throws another tantrum and clears out because of Britomart's attitude to her — mind you she did get her parrots to make fun of him during a performance! Lotta experiences the worst time of all because, due to a misdemeanor on her part, Lisa and Jeanne have replaced her in the ring although their expertise with horses is nowhere near hers. Things are going from bad to worse and then when Lotta's association with her beloved horse is threatened it's time for Something To Happen! The little girl goes to ground and Lisa with Jeanne rush off to report her disappearance to the Ringmaster who is furious: "I will not have such disobedience! Her father shall whip her for this." The story takes on an atmosphere which is similar in a way to many of the author's writings and an example would be in the books that she wrote about school-life where there are ongoing incidents and altercations between students who can't get along with each other. Personalities are flaring and the circus is seriously threatened. Oh, if only Mr. Galliano was here but apparently he's off to the South of France with his wife and it'll be at least six months before anything positive can take place in that respect. There are so many questions — will Mr. Galliano return? What about Madame Prunella? Mr. Wally, Mr. Tonks — will they stay? Will Lotta sort her life out? Is there anyone who can counter Britomart's iron fist? What will eventually happen to the famous circus?

The book draws slowly to a close with a pilgrimage by none other than the Wonder-Girl - but she's not off to Mecca. The staunch Lotta, together with a lovely doll that Jimmy has given her, is off on her fiery horse to experience an adventure which we all hope will have a happy ending. Finale!
E.H. Davie is the artist yet again. We are very lucky to get more than our fair share of pictures in the Galliano trio of books. There are piles of them and it would be rare to turn three pages without an accompanying illustration and the book that came before this one which is particularly well-endowed has a few full-length ones as well. The cover of Circus Days Again has an attractive wraparound picture which shows Lotta in all her glory. I guess that's Jimmy's father in the caravan with Stanley the clown alongside and Mr. Wally behind him in his car. The chap on Jumbo would probably be Mr. Tonks his trainer, and the man riding the horse might be Laddo — Lotta's father, but there's someone important missing — there's no Wonder Boy. Still, there are plenty of pictures of him inside.

Mr. Galliano is described as wearing a black suit in the ring a long time ago when Jimmy first saw the circus but the few colour pictures that exist of the Ringmaster show him as most of us would imagine he'd look — with a bright red coat and white breeches.

'Google' (a name used for one of the clowns) is a funny little word that the author used several months later in a Sunny Stories serial entitled The Magic Faraway Tree. The children sampled Google Buns which have a currant in the centre that, when bitten, froths out with sherbet and fills the mouth with delicious-tasting bubbles.

Enid Blyton must have liked the glitter and romance of circus life because there are many circus-references in her works. There are other 'circus' books as well and is there any other author around who wrote two unrelated books which have exactly the same title? I refer to a couple of them called Come to the Circus! One stars a girl named Fenella and the other is a 'Little Book' which stars Peter and Mollie.

The final result of a strictly personal poll has to be announced and I wonder if anyone would agree as to choice. There are several characters who are extremely empathic with the creatures of the woods and the fields and at least three of them are men who are also of the woods and the fields. Tammylan in the Cherry Tree/Willow Farm books (not to be confused with Tammylin the pixie in Tales of Green Hedges) was one who possessed extraordinary powers and he demonstrated them to the children who starred in that series. Zachary Boswell (Zacky) was another and being a gypsy he was certainly in touch with all the wildlife around him. Then there's Twigg of the Mistletoe Farm books who was pretty knowledgeable when it comes to animals and I think out of all the candidates he would have sufficient capabilities to pass off as a vet. Another talented individual is Jack Trent/Mannering who possesses attraction-powers in the bird department of which there is living proof in the form of a remarkable parrot named Kiki who must be the world's most recognized and beloved talking bird although her talents might be matched by one or two of Madame Prunella's pets. We mustn't forget Mr. Galliano himself who has proved his worth with many animals and this may include tigers as well! Wilfred in the book called Five have a Mystery to Solve finally convinced me that Enid Blyton found great pleasure in creating people who could attract all kinds of creatures so maybe there was an unspoken desire here to be able to be At One with Nature. Wilfred was a boy of about ten who had such powers over animals and birds that I saw him more as an Elf of the Forest — a kind of Pan-like person with his little pipe which he used to attract the fauna ... perhaps the only magical child to grace the pages of an Enid Blyton book that's not in the fairy-tale category. We meet the boy only once so he cannot establish himself all that much and I can't seem to look upon him as anything other than, as stated, a sort of figment of the author's imagination that was included merely to add interest and to cater to E.B.'s fantasy. It's quite an attractive idea and I think most of us have desired a closer relationship with animals at some stage in our lives.

Finally onto the scene come Wonder-Boy Jimmy Brown of Galliano fame and Philip Mannering who graced the Smugs books (along with Jack). I chose Philip but there is a reason — he was fortunate to have eight books in which to demonstrate his skill whereas young Jimmy had only three — and a bit (the 'bit' refers to a short Galliano story produced by the author and included in Enid Blyton's Omnibus which came out ten years later in 1952). [Tony is butting in here, to say that All About the Circus in the 'Old Thatch Series' is also a story about Galliano's Circus.] Philip therefore had a chance to show that he could even tame rodents and reptiles which extended from snakes down to lizards and quite-amazingly ... slow-worms. If Enid Blyton returned and wrote another few circus books I think she would make Jimmy as competent as Philip when it comes to Pied-Piper expertise but in the meantime Philip wins — but only by a hair's-breadth if one take into account Jimmy's complete lack of fear regarding all living creatures including bad-tempered tigers! Come to think of it, for such a feat, perhaps he deserves to be placed on par with Philip.

In another book called The Twins at St. Clare's, Pat and Isabel O'Sullivan with two of their buddies actually met Jimmy Brown and Lotta when Galliano's Circus came to town. They visited the field where the camp was set up and even sneaked out from school one evening to attend a performance. The rest of the class also visited a few days later and received an unexpected treat when they were allowed to meet the performers close-up after the show and mingle with stars such as Sammy, Jumbo the elephant and Lotta with her wonderful horse. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.