Tag Archives: Circuses

Marvellous Miss May: Queen of the Circus – Stephanie Owen Reeder



Publisher:   National Library of Australia
Edition:   1st Edition
ISBN:   9780642279156
Publication Date:   01 February 2018

RRP $24.99


What is not to love about this wonderful Heritage Heroes series?  Stephanie Owen Reeder introduces readers to a cast of significant Australians with whom many of us are unaware (myself included).

This new volume continues the high standard set by the previous books with not only the fictionalised story of the person, May Wirth, but also the inclusion of relevant information around the circus both historical and current, the period, day to day life and more with the illustrations vividly enhancing these. These include, as in previous titles, advertisements, banners, newspaper clippings, ephemera and more which all add to the overall beauty of the presentation.

After sharing the 2016 Eve Pownall shortlist with my Year 5s, Lennie the Legend was our hot favourite as a winner and we were all very well pleased when our prediction became actualised.

I cannot help but feel that this new volume will also be shortlisted at least and stands a good chance of winning again.

For me it was a fascinating read. To start with this is a Queenslander who began life as a neglected, impoverished and abused child and was ‘given away’ at the tender age of seven. Fortunately for May she was taken in by the Wirths and became an integral part of their circus family. As she grew older little Miss May proved she was tenacious and talented and eventually reached the dizzy heights of performing with the legendary Barnum & Bailey circus in the United States as well as performing for royalty in England. With such an illustrious and long-lived career as May had it is indeed a shame her name is so little known in the common lore of our country. This book will be pivotal in changing that as it introduces the present generation to one of our first Mighty Girls – one who refused to give up, and who stood up for equal rights her whole life.

Well done to the author for this superb account of the indomitable Miss May.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.



The Diamond Horse – Stacey Gregg


x293 (4)

Harper Collins

          ISBN: 9780008124403

         ISBN 10: 000812440X

         Imprint: HarperCollins – GB


         List Price: 14.99 AUD

I’ve bought two of the previous books in this series for my library but not had the chance to read either so I was very glad to receive this one for review.

Of course the horsey girls will love it (as they have done the others) but the historical facts on which it is based are also quite fascinating.

Two very different Russian girls and two very different special horses are separated by time but linked by a very special diamond necklace.

Anna Orlov lives in a magnificent palace in the often frozen Russian wilds surrounded by a menagerie of animals. They’re not pets exactly although two become so for the girl, rather they are part of the breeding program for which her highly-ranked father is famous throughout the empire. In the late 18th century Count Alexei Orlov was one of the most powerful men at Catherine’s court (not least because he was a conspirator in the overthrow of Tsar Peter III so that his wife, Catherine, could take the throne).  After Anna’s beloved mother dies, life with her cold-hearted father and her cruel older brother becomes almost unbearable as she discovers more and more about the darker side of both. Her only memento of her mother is a beautiful black diamond necklace that is rumoured to have special powers.

Anna’s father is given the credit for breeding the now famous Orlov trotters after he brings home a beautiful Arabian stallion to cross breed with the best of Russian horses but it is really Anna who saves the stallion’s foal and raises him secretly to become the foundation of the breed.


Valentina Romanov is an orphan trapped in a circus where she performs with her unusual looking horse, Sasha. She has however big dreams that go way beyond the tawdry and poor life she has at the mercy of her so-called benefactor, the ringmaster. Valentina has only one precious possession – the same black diamond necklace that once belonged to the Orlovs. [Her character is based on Alexandra Korelova who won Olympic gold with her Orlov trotter Balagur – also a former circus horse!]

The two stories run parallel and refer to many actual people and events fictionalised into this really compelling story.  After reading the novel I just had to go and look up the histories of both girls which proved just as interesting as the book.

I loved this – it was a great read and I can see why the girls in my library took to the others so readily.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 upwards.

Watch Alexandra and Balagur here to see just how truly beautiful this breed is!


The murderous Count Orlov




Mouse Mansion 3: Sam and Julia at the Circus – Karina Schaapman



RRP $24.99

ISBN: 9781760112028Australian

December 2014

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

When this fabulous offering arrived in my package on Thursday I immediately knew that Small and I would love it – both being mouse aficionados (today we went shopping for a new little mouse – now called Mousey Two, in honour of a lately departed dear friend). I restrained myself nobly from reading it until last night’s sleepover so that we could both explore it together.

What a wonderful experience we shared! From the stunning endpapers of the interiors of mouse circus caravans to each wonderful illustration – the ooohs and aahhhs gained momentum with a climatic gasp of wonder at the amazing fold out centre pages with a detailed view of the interior and exterior busyness of the Circus Roberti big top.

No doubt some of you will be already familiar with the first two books but I had only briefly glimpsed the second – Sam and Julia at the Theatre – and am now completely and utterly hooked.

Julia and Sam both live in the Mouse Mansion – with many other families. They are the best of friends and like so many others, complement each other’s personalities. When the Circus Roberti comes to town, the Ringmaster needs someone to sew and cook for the circus’ summer season. Julia’s mum applies for the job successfully and she and Julia set off on a circus adventure that brings a wealth of new experiences for them both. Julia misses Sam very much but they write letters to each other so that each knows all about the other’s daily life.

Essentially an illustrated chapter book in picture book format, this is a true joy and readers will spend many happy hours poring over each page finding all the miniature marvels within. To understand the context of these books and their setting, you must find out more about Karina Schaapman and the Mouse Mansion. If, like me, you are especially fond of dollhouses, miniatures and the like – and mice – your instant thought will be ‘I want one!’ and the next thought might be – ‘How can we build our own?’.


A full page at the end describes Karina’s creation of the Mouse Mansion faced by a full-page illustration of this wondrous 3 metre high dwelling – do spend some time to investigate, I know you won’t regret it!

Small and I LOVE this immensely and I know we will continue to explore it’s delightful presentation with rapt scrutiny. I will not be at all surprised if we are reading it again tonight!


Baby Mousey Two in her travel accommodation