Three ring action

Clowning around

Since the early 1870s when P.T. Barnum's "Traveling World's Fair, Great Roman Hippodrome and Greatest Show On Earth" took to the rails to entertain more people...when the circus came to town, the town came to the circus. 

Clicko : the wild dancing bushman
Neil Parsons ; foreword by Andrew McCall Smith.
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2010.

During the 1920s and ’30s, Franz Taibosh—whose stage name was Clicko—performed in front of millions as one of the stars of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Prior to his fame in the United States, Taibosh toured the world as the “Wild Dancing Bushman,” showing off his frenzied dance moves in freak shows, sideshows, and music halls from Australia to Cuba. When he died in 1940, theNew York Timescalled him “the only African bushman ever exhibited in this country.” InClicko, Neil Parsons unearths the untold story of Taibosh’s journey from boyhood on a small farm in South Africa to top billing as one of the travelling World’s Fair Freaks.

Through Taibosh’s tale, Parsons brings to life the bizarre golden age of entertainment as well as the role that the dubious new science of race played in it. Beginning with Taibosh’s early life,Clickountangles the real story of his ancestry from the web of myths spun around him on his rise to international stardom. Parsons then chronicles the unhappy middle period of Taibosh’s career, when he suffered under the heel of a vicious manager. Left to freeze and nearly starve in an unheated apartment, Taibosh was rescued by Frank Cook, Barnum & Bailey’s lawyer. The Cooks adopted Taibosh as a member of their family of circus managers and performers, and his happy—if far from average—years with them make up the final chapter of this remarkable story.

Equal parts entertaining and disturbing,Clickovividly evokes a forgotten era when vaudeville drew massive crowds and circus freaks were featured inBillboardandVariety. Parsons introduces us to colorful characters such as George Auger the giant and the original Zip the Pinhead, but above all, he gives us an unforgettable portrait of Franz Taibosh, rescued at last from the racists and the romantics and revealed here as an ordinary man with an extraordinary life.

101 circus games for children : juggling - clowning - balancing acts - acrobatics - animal numbers
Paul Rooyackers, translated by Amina Marix Evans, illustrated by Geert Snijders.
Alameda, Calif. : Hunter House Inc., 2009.
When the circus isn't in town, children can still enjoy this colorful collection of circus-based games and activities. Ideal for children ages four through 12, the noncompetitive games are presented in a clear, simple way. Illustrations.
World of wonders
Jimmy & Dena Katz.
Brooklyn, NY : PowerHouse Books, 2009.
Agnes Lake Hickok : queen of the circus, wife of a legend
Linda A. Fisher and Carrie Bowers.
Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, c2009.
Defying and disappointing her Midwestern business family's expectations, Agnes Mersmen (1826-1907) married traveling entertainer Bill Lake, became a circus performer herself, and eventually owned and operated the circus, traveling to every state and even some of the territories out west for over 30 years. Then she married the legendary Wild Bill Hickok, bringing her even more public attention, though he was killed only five months later. Fisher (1947-2006) was a public health physician and researcher, who happened across Agnes' brother's diaries, and decided that the sister he admired so much was indeed worth knowing more and writing about. Historian Bowers was her research assistant, and completed the project. Annotation #169;2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Monty Python's flying circus : an utterly complete, thoroughly unillustrated, absolutely unauthorized guide to possibly all the references : from Arthur "Two-Sheds" Jackson to Zambesi
Darl Larsen.
Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2008.
Designed as the ultimate guide for Monty Python fans, this hefty volume not only provides a listing of all references to the comedy troupe's seminal TV program, Monty Python's Flying Circus, but it analyzes the influence the show had on modern culture. Larsen (Brigham Young U.) lists each allusion by episode, and explains the significance of The Spanish Inquisition, Arabella Plunkett and HRH The Dummy Princess Margaret, at least in the context of Python fans. Cross-references between the various episodes are also provided. Annotation #169;2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Jumbo : the greatest elephant in the world
Paul Chambers.
Hanover, N.H. : Steerforth Press, c2008.
  1. First published: London : André Deutsch, 2007.
  2. Includes bibliographical references (p. 209-220) and index.
American sideshow : an encyclopedia of history's most wondrous and curiously strange performers
presented by Marc Hartzman.
New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, c2005.
Many Historians Claim The sideshow began with P. T. Barnum, yet the concept has existed for as long as there has been human curiosity. When something different or unusual appears before you-living or inanimate-you're intrigued, amazed, or maybe even disgusted. But you want to see it.
Dreams of the solo trapeze : offstage with the Cirque du Soleil
Mark Schreiber.
[U.S.] : Canal House, c2005.
Enter a world unlike any other, where a dozen languages are spoken and scores of disciplines perfected--or invented; intimate and inscrutable, artistic and athletic, courageous and committed: the private world of the performers in the Cirque du Soleil.. Of the hundreds of artists the Cirque employs, none is more fascinating than Olga Sidorova, who ran away from Siberia at age 14 to follow her dream to fly. When Schreiber met her in March, 2002, she inspired his own global odyssey, following the European tour of Saltimbanco., assisting her after knee surgery at the Cirque's training studio in Montreal, even helping a pair of contortionists apartment hunt in Las Vegas. Dreams of the Solo Trapeze: Offstage with the Cirque du Soleil. is not one book but many: non-fiction novel, biography, cultural history, travel narrative, and love story. Its aim is to discover and pay tribute to these magnificent artists in a manner that reflects the Cirque's own spontaneity, originality and daring.

When the circus came to town it meant daring adventurers, animal acts, and hilarious clowns to entertain kids from 2 to 82. That excitement is even better today as circuses seek to provide a special experience for everyone. Some circuses present a pre-show event. Here ticketholders can step into one of the three rings, meet the performers, and maybe dance with an elephant or learn to juggle.

Circus skills?

Are you suited to be a clown, aerialist, acrobat, or animal trainer?

1-Which activity would you do with a friend? bungee-jump, parasail, hike, miniature golf

2-What band member would you be? drummer, lead singer, backup singer, lead guitarist

(Ringling's skill quiz continues)

Then it's time for everyone to get back to their seats so they will not miss the main event with its

  • Clowns
  • Human cannonballs
  • Amazing animals
  • Acrobatic dancers
  • State-of-the-art light shows

The circus world is one of magic and imagination; of well-known names like Jumbo, Emmett Kelly and Buffalo Bill; of the exotic and unusual. But most of all it is a world of escape and wonder that continues to fascinate the latest generation of circus lovers. No wonder the circus is still called the 'Greatest Show On Earth.'

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff