The Enid Blyton Society
Come to the Circus
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Book Details...

First edition: 1943
Publisher: Brockhampton Press
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Brockhampton Picture Books
Genre: Circus
Type: Short Story Series Books

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Review by Terry Gustafson

"Get your tickets here for the circus! Finest show in the world!"


Those words or words like them have probably been seen before because Enid Blyton liked her circuses and treated us to many performances which involved lots of varied characters. I don't know whether Peter and Mollie flew in their Wishing Chair to attend this circus but certainly their namesakes did and the whole show was thoroughly enjoyed.

The circus in this book is a typical Enid Blyton conglomeration of talents though it would probably fall short of the Ringling Bros./Barnum and Bailey institutions not to mention a favourite one that travels throughout Britain — Galliano's Circus, but it contains all the acts necessary to make up a good afternoon show.

Now, this book is one of those old ones that cater to the smaller child and a distinct characteristic is that the pictures are plentiful as they usually are in these and similar publications. They are drawn by a favourite Blyton artists — Eileen Soper. Soper illustrated all the books that feature the group known as the Famous Five. She also lent her hand to many short stories such as those in the Brockhampton Collections of which there are eight and there were many others so it seems that Eileen must have spent almost every waking hour at the drawing board ... much as Enid Blyton may have spent all of hers at the typewriter. The result of Soper's work is that most of us are very familiar with her style and we (especially young children) will welcome the results of her balanced and professional artistry.
Peter and Mollie watch the ringmaster enter at the beginning of the performance and he's naturally very grand-looking and carries a whip which he cracks to herald the different acts.

What's next?

Six beautiful white horses. Horses are a staple of circuses (Mr. Galliano's has six black ones). These are followed by seven clowns who make Mollie and Peter laugh like anything so we know they are really enjoying themselves along with all the others who have filled the seats under the Big-Top. A Blyton circus must have an elephant that can play cricket by holding a bat in its trunk whilst the trainer throws a tennis ball and here, the author has seen a chance for audience involvement. This circus has two elephants and the one with the bat smacks the ball right out of the ring whereby a member of the audience shoots his hand up into the air and catches it. I'll give you two guesses as to who the dexterous person was and I've already dropped a clue.

Bring on the acrobats and sure enough, in they come — six of them. They throw themselves around and do a bit of balancing which includes tightrope-walking. One manages to support the other five and he makes Peter wish he was a strong as that — meantime, Mollie's wishing the circus would go on for ever and ever. A sea-lion entertains them all next and this one's a very impressive animal with a balancing act of its own which involves holding a ball on the end of a stick which in turn is balanced on its nose. How the trainers teach them these tricks is anyone's guess. How the trainers teach fifteen beautiful little dogs to march around on their hind legs and jump through paper hoops is also a mystery but that's the next act and it leaves Peter wishing that he had fifteen dogs of his own. Mollie is a trifle more adventurous and wishes for an elephant and a sea-lion to play with. After the cheering has died away, there has to be a chimpanzee at some stage of the game and there is. Out he comes and after titivating himself he jumps onto a bike and then, with the involvement of a few clowns, there's hilarity and laughter galore.

There are two jugglers who give an outstanding performance which includes some unbelievable balancing stunts as well and one of them looks quite dangerous. This is an excellent act with which to end the show and now the only thing remaining is a grand parade of all the stars around the ring. Here they come and it's a very colourful display with everyone seeing their favourite characters once again as they follow each other around to deafening applause and not without minor disruptions of course from the clowns and the chimp who, to Mollie's delight, blows her a kiss.

CRACK! The ringmaster has used his big whip. The band strikes up and as is customary, the audience rises to burst forth with "God Save the King".

The ring is now empty and Mollie gives a big sigh, "It's all over, Peter! Home we go!"

Peter: "I wish I had a circus of my very own!"

Now, that really would be lovely, wouldn't it?
The centerpiece of this book has a really beautiful Soper picture of all the performers in the ring so keep an eye out for it. The pictures alternate between colour and black & white.

This has been a circus which is representative of all circuses so maybe it can rival Galliano's great show. He has one clown although the quota was increased but we've just attended a performance that has seven. Then there are six acrobats as opposed to about one and fifteen dogs against Galliano's ten not to mention two elephants as opposed to the latter's one. However the circus in this book is a kind of 'one-off ' so Enid Blyton was able to add whatever she liked with little worry as to how much money it would cost for all the extra animals and staff.

It can be rather confusing when taking a look at Come to the Circus because there are three books with the same name! The one reviewed above came out in 1943 but then it looks like it was reprinted about nine years later in a changed format which made it one of those very attractive 'Little Books' — small, almost square booklets that contain great pictures. I'll get you really confused now — after Come to the Circus came out in 1943 and before Come to the Circus came out in 1952, Come to the Circus! came out in 1948. Now ... the 1948 Come to the Circus! was different from the other two which were the same. Are you with me? The 1948 book was a proper, long story in the vein of the 'Galliano' books and it starred a young girl called Fenella so that one is nothing to do with the other two (which are the same).

The 'Little Book' version lacks the colourful centerpiece of the earlier book.

God Save the King (or Queen) was often played at gatherings in those days. It also came on the screen at the beginning of the movies so if you were carrying a bundle of parcels it was a nuisance having to clutch at them all whilst standing to attention and you'd better not stay sitting because some old lady might poke you from behind and tell you to, "Get up!"

That would be considered an assault these days!