The best circus story books for readers of age 8+

Who am I?

I remember reading Enid Blyton’s Mr. Galliano’s Circus as a child and was fascinated more by the idea of circus life than the actual performance aspect. I still adore watching high-quality circus feats performed by acrobats and love that frisson of excitement as everyone shuffles into their seats just before showtime. When I began writing children’s books, my aim was to give the child characters room to develop resilience and courage while encountering danger and adventure without the presence of adults. In order to do this, I had to somehow remove parental figures. Running away is the perfect literary device to achieve this which is how Glass Dreams came about.


I wrote...

Glass Dreams

By Helen Laycock,

Book cover of Glass Dreams

What is my book about?

Glass Dreams is a circus mystery where all is not as it seems…Jake’s life suddenly unravels when his grandma dies. His foster carers are wonderful, but this is only a temporary arrangement. When he is then placed in an orphanage where everyone seems to hate him, running away seems to be the only option… 

He finds shelter in the middle of the night in the form of an old caravan in the woods,  and it’s there he meets Khala, an acrobat from the travelling circus, who persuades him to join her. Running away to the circus seems so exciting, until he realises the danger he has got himself into, but the discovery he makes at the end is utterly unimaginable and worth every ounce of peril.

The books I picked & why

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Mr. Nobody's Eyes

By Michael Morpurgo,

Book cover of Mr. Nobody's Eyes

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for anything about chimps!

Set in post-war England, this charming story focuses on the relationship between 10-year-old Henry and Ocky, a mischievous chimpanzee he ‘accidentally’ steals from Mr Nobody at Blondini’s Circus.

After trouble at school and at home, and with the threat of having his secret friend discovered, Harry runs away with Ocky. Following a series of adventures, ending with a perilous situation at the seaside, Harry realises that not only is Ocky precious to Mr Nobody, but he is precious to his family too.


Circus of Thieves on the Rampage, 2

By William Sutcliffe, David Tazzyman (illustrator),

Book cover of Circus of Thieves on the Rampage, 2

Why this book?

Who doesn’t enjoy a fast-paced caper?

This story is full of quirky illustrations, colourful characters, and funny footnotes. Often conversational, Sutcliffe frequently addresses the reader as he relays the shenanigans leading up to circus legend and aerialist supreme, Quennie Bombazine’s cunning plan to catch her nemesis, Armitage Shanks, while at the same time reuniting Hannah and Billy with their circus father.

I would say that for reluctant readers who enjoy visual prompts and more of a comic-style format, this would be perfect.


Circus Shoes

By Noel Streatfeild,

Book cover of Circus Shoes

Why this book?

I read that Noel Streatfeild actually spent time with a travelling circus to achieve authenticity in this story. Well, you can almost smell the greasepaint and sawdust.

Rather than being sent to separate orphanages, sheltered siblings Santa and Peter run away to Cob’s Circus where their Uncle Gus performs on the trapeze. Peter learns to ride and to understand animals, and Santa learns to tumble, but they need to persuade their uncle to like them and decide to keep them. Though old-fashioned, this tale is vivid with colour and spectacle, and the atmosphere so well-captured.


Olivia Flies High

By Lyn Gardner,

Book cover of Olivia Flies High

Why this book?

Written with incredible accuracy of detail and stage terms, this story gives a real insight into stage school life.

Olivia and her younger sister, Eel, the daughters of an actress and circus performer, are now at Swan Stage School, owned by their grandmother, Alicia. Alicia eventually agrees to add circus skills to the curriculum which proves to be very useful when a child is in danger, albeit one who has caused no end of trouble for her counterparts.


Diamond

By Jacqueline Wilson, Nick Sharratt (illustrator),

Book cover of Diamond

Why this book?

This book is part of the Hetty Feather collection, perfect for fans of this feisty Victorian heroine.

Recounted by ‘Diamond’ (formerly Ellen-Jane), the child acrobatic wonder, this is a story about running away FROM the circus. Bought for five guineas by cruel clown Beppo, Diamond is forced to become part of the Silver Brothers’ tumbling act at Tanglefield’s Travelling Circus. Although competent, she is mistreated and unhappy, but when Hetty Feather joins the circus as ringmaster ‘Emerald’, things begin to change…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the circus, chimpanzees, and Latin?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the circus, chimpanzees, and Latin.

The Circus Explore 21 books about the circus
Chimpanzees Explore 13 books about chimpanzees
Latin Explore 161 books about Latin

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Spark of Justice, The Toymaker, and The Circus of Dr. Lao if you like this list.