Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Circus Dogs Roscoe and Rolly is yet another emotionally-charged and powerful children's book by Tuula Pere, our 2023 Author of the Year and multi-time overall winner! This book packed a punch that we weren't expecting and in a way we weren't expecting it.
How is it that Pere keeps pleasantly surprising us? Despite most of her books being packed with emotional depth and complexity, each one seems to tackle emotional depth and complexity in a fresh and different way! It's incredible to consider the range that Pere has as an author and, really, a thinker.
Circus Dogs Roscoe and Rolly focuses on Roscoe, a furry, fluffy, fan-favorite circus dog. Roscoe specializes in an act in which he solves math problems by barking. However, old age is catching up to poor Roscoe. After years of being at the top of his game and performing as a superstar, Roscoe is beginning to decline. His eyesight and mind are not what they used to be, and he stops being able to identify cards and count numbers like he used to.
Rolly, his young protege and co-star, is forced to take up more of a starring role, yet she is anxious and unprepared for the spotlight. Roscoe steps up as a mentor and a coach, encouraging and teaching her.
In the midst of all of this, a child goes missing during one of the circus's performances, creating a crisis for everyone there. No one is able to find the child. However, Roscoe comes in handy because, despite his sense of sight and his mind having declined, his strong sense of smell remains keen. Can old Roscoe become the unlikeliest of heroes and avert this catastrophe?
This book does so many things well. First of all, despite the illustrations being different from what usually appeals to us, it's still wonderful. Next, the story is very relatable and easy to follow. Anyone who has lost the ability to do something they loved or has experienced the effects of aging can relate to Roscoe's struggles. This story also has a lot of layers to it. First, there's Roscoe's struggle—the focal point of the story. However, his struggle overlaps with that of Rolly, who is really just trying her best to fill the big shoes that Roscoe is leaving.
If there's any one bit of criticism we have, it's that the text/font size is pretty small, making it a bit hard to see or read at times, which is ironic given Roscoe's worsening eyesight in the book.
Other than that, we really enjoyed and appreciated this book.
Check it out on Amazon!