Score: 90/100 (9.0 out of 10)
Circus Cannelloni Invades Britain by Tuula Pere is a sequel that we highly anticipated!
This ambitious children's book follows the events of Mr. Cannelloni's Circus in which the shabby little circus narrowly and courageously avoided being closed by a safety inspector and by dwindling finances.
Having avoided closure and their dreams being crushed, the circus owners and performers can finally enjoy the fruits of their labor. At the end of a successful year for the traveling circus, the owners, Ernesto and Rosita Cannelloni, decide that it's time for all of them to reward themselves with a vacation.
The first consider Paris, then Venice, but ultimately decide that it's time to visit one of their most esteemed and wealthy friends in England, Sebastian (a tennis star) and his wife, Isabela—owners of a massive and luxurious estate.
And it's a really good thing that the estate is so big because the circus decides to bring a lot of its animals including the elephants!
Specifically, Elvira (the older female elephant) is pregnant and expecting to have her baby at some point in the trip. This actually supplies much of the tension in the book.
Aside from Elvira's pregnancy, the clowns, Victor and Hugo, continue to work out some of their grudge that simmered in the previous book. While Budo's food was able to bring them together in the previous book, a heated, competitive, yet friendly game of tennis does so in this book.
So, from what we gathered, this book serves as a bit of an epilogue for a lot of the major characters, allowing them to have their moment in the sun.
Aside from the elephants and the clowns, the characters who really gripped us were the two leads: Ernesto and Rosita. Ernesto is an incredibly sympathetic character who is doing his best to keep his circus afloat and his high-maintenance wife happy. You can tell that Ernesto has a soft Napoleon complex, often feeling inadequate and insufficient. He wishes he could give Rosita the world, but knows that it's impossible. Ernesto finally gets his moment by giving a speech to a college.
On the other hand, Rosita is a humorously vain and somewhat demanding woman who wants everything to be big, grand, and fabulous. However, she is clearly learning to be more realistic. Despite wanting to have the best clothes and jewelry, she knows that she needs to have self-control and understanding. One of the things about Rosita that we empathized with the most is that she is a bit self-conscious about her weight, her body image, and—in particular—the loss of her athleticism that she once held as a tight-rope walker. Anyone who has had a talent yet has seen it deteriorate along with age, poor health, or weight gain can empathize with her plight.
Of course, there's Budo who is just a great overall guy who helps to raise up the other characters when they're at their lowest.
These circus characters are surprisingly compelling while also being comical (as you'd expect from a circus story). These guys are people you'd love to hang out with and learn from.
While the illustrations are generally not our cup of tea, there are some nice illustrations in here. Some of our favorites involve the elephants. The writing is also decent. In fact, it might be preferable just to read this like a chapter book rather than as a traditional children's book. Now, there often seems to be a lack of focus. You're following multiple conflicts or events in quick succession. Sometimes it seems like there's no key conflict to facilitate a plot. In the last book, there was a clear conflict: the circus was in danger of being closed down. The tone of this book is significantly more relaxed.
Check it out on Amazon!