Three-Ring Rascals is the new series from Kate and Sarah Klise, authors of the brilliant 43 Cemetery Road Series of graphic epistolary novels that my nine-year-old (and I) adore. This new series from the Klise sisters is equally fantastic as well as being a debut title for the new Algonquin Young Readers imprint (check out my review of Amy Herrick's The Time Fetch for all the details about this exciting new publisher of quality kid's books)! The first book in the series, Three-Ring Rascals : The Show Must Go On!, has all the great characters, kooky plot lines and wonderful illustrations found in 43 Cemetery Road Series, but a different, more traditional story-telling format. I was worried that this (and what looked like more words - my son is still at the age where some books have too many words) might deter my son, but he jumped right into this new series and read almost non-stop. The illustrations on every page supplement the text (and there are some of the great letters, signs, receipts and even smart phones with text messages that are part of the story) and even include speech bubbles that add to the story.
Three-Ring Rascals : The Show Must Go On! begins with a description of Sir Sidney, proprietor of Sir Sidney's Circus, which happens to be the "BEST circus in the whole wide world." Sir Sidney is a prince of a man and "NO one treats animals better than Sir Sidney does." Not only does Sir Sidney treat his animals (including non-performers like Bert and Gert, two helpful mice who eat spilled popcorn, make up new words and make costumes for the circus, and Old Coal, a crow who delivers letters) well, he built bunk beds for the Famous Flying Banana Brothers on his circus train and he admits children to his circus FREE OF CHARGE and gives them all the hot popcorn they can eat! But, traveling with his circus for so many years left Sir Sidney very tired and he puts an ad in the paper with the hopes of finding just the right person to run his circus while he had a much deserved rest. After interviewing many candidates, Sir Sidney settles on Barnabas Brambles, a certified lion tamer. Unfortunately, once Barnabas takes over and studies Sir Sidney's schedule, he makes a TO DO list. At the top of the list? "Make $$$ for me." Next? "Get rid of two mice and one crow."
Suffice it to say, Barnabas is as rotten as Sir Sidney is nice and his quest to make money takes the circus performers on a crazy, cross-country performance schedule that has the train, engineered by the Flying Banana Brothers, literally flying - and landing on the St. Louis Arch! This scene is definitely one of my favorite illustrations in the book with the solution to this dilemma proving even more amazing. The animals and Bert and Gert do their best to survive and thrive, but Barnabas makes it very tough. Just when things seem at their darkest, Sir Sidney returns and proves that he really is a prince of a man by seeing something good in Barnabas.
As silly as Three-Ring Rascals : The Show Must Go On! can get at times, Sir Sidney's decision to give Barnabas a second chance in the last chapter is really lovely and sets up the second book in the series, The Greatest Star on Earth, perfectly! My son and I can't wait to see where Sir Sidney and his circus go next and what adventures await them.
Source: Review Copy