Don’t miss the interview about Cynthia’s Watch Out for Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community (Peachtree, 2015) or the interview about Kate’s Feeding the Flying Fanellis and Other Poems from a Circus Chef, illustrated by Cosei Kawa (Carolrhoda, 2015).
Here’s our final installment of this series:
Why do you think circus arts—and books about them—have become so popular with kids?
Kate: I think circus arts fill a need that wasn’t being met in our culture. American kids who wanted to be physical usually turn to team sports, but if kids want an outlet that is both physical and artistic, they need to look elsewhere.
Circus arts are athletic and artistic and also provide kids with an
opportunity for healthy escapism. The circus world is magical and
mysterious, and by participating in circus arts, children are able to
‘run away with the circus’ before returning to their regular lives.
For kids who serious about circus arts, another benefit is that their troupe really functions as family. They are united in trying to put on the best show possible, and in many cases have also entrusted their physical safety to their fellow troupers or to crew members.
I think your book makes it very clear that the bonds that are forged through this interdependence are profound, especially if the circus is comprised of kids from different cultures who can not always fall back on a shared language as a form of communication.
Ultimately, the circus family cannot function unless each member is fully focused and committed, and this is true whether you are a performer, director, crew member, or the circus chef.
Cynthia: Kids’ lives today are closely scrutinized, demanding, and competitive. Maybe circus—both real ones and books about them—is especially appealing now because it provides ways for kids to find an alternative to their everyday situations.
Unlike the rest of their lives, circus is non-competitive.
Performers have to cooperate, partly because that’s the ethos of circus
and also because it’s too dangerous not to. So they take big risks but
in a supportive environment.
One of my major takeaways from my research into circus is that, while it appears to be exotic, it is actually doable by a wide range of kids. They get to imagine themselves inside a world that is both fantastic and real.
Anyone can truly accomplish what appears to be the impossible.
Many of their peers seek fantasy online or in virtual worlds and compete with each other for grades or recognition. But circus kids help each other create an alternate reality, literally.
I don’t know if this explains why circus is becoming prominent but I hope these values come across in kidlit.
They certainly do in your book where the troupers seem out of this world—but they have to eat, like normal people! And the chef has to be flexible to figure out their very human needs.