Score: 77/100 (7.7 out of 100)
Mr. Cannelloni's Circus by Tuula Pere follows the titular Mr. Cannelloni, a circus promoter, and his wife, Rosita, as they attempt to save their failing circus business.
Tuula Pere is arguably our most prolific children's author. Not only has she published an impressive number of children's book, but her stories and characters tend to dive deeper and darker than most. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn't. On a concept level, this book's premise is great. There are quite a few stories out there of people trying to save failing businesses (and circuses), and almost all of them are good. Like Beauty & the Beast, it seems to be a tale as old as time. It almost always works.
The main issue with this book is that, for a children's book, it might be too convoluted and complex. It skips from thing to thing and character to character. So, it becomes difficult to follow who is doing what or why. There's also the issue of whether or not the information given is necessary for the sake of the story. With a children's book of this length, you really want to be mindful of possibly throwing too much at the audience at once.
There are so many things happening—perhaps too many. You have the issue of the financial state of the circus, you have the issue of Rosita's ideas to save it, you have the issue of the the health & safety inspector Maximillian Knack, you have the issue of Rosita's lover from long ago, and you have the issue of someone embezzling money or stealing from the circus.
The other issue is that the art isn't particularly appealing. It has a wonky, warped appearance similar to “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. The fisherman on page 18 looks unfinished and, because of that, comes across as the stuff of nightmares. With that said, it's not all bad. Budo looks great on page 34 and the cards on 44 look good, for example. So, this might be more of an issue of style. Not all of Tuula Pere's books are perfectly illustrated, but almost all of them have a worthwhile story to tell and/or an appealing character or two.
This book does have some interesting characters. One of our favorites was Budo, a strongman who is one of Mr. Cannelloni's oldest friends. When Cannelloni feels the walls closing in, it's his oldest friend who steps up and takes him fishing. Cleopatra, a “snake woman,” is also interesting from time to time. And, of course, there's Rosita, the main protagonist of the book, who is a supportive spouse and has a really cool talent for handling poodles.There's also at least one funny, entertaining part of this book in which the safety inspector becomes an impromptu part of the show.
Keep in mind that this book is on the longer side and might be more appropriate (in terms of complexity and length) for older kids, perhaps those more accustomed to chapter books.
You can check it out on Amazon!