Date reviewed: 2/23/03 Grades 3-6 IL 9-12 author’s website
Summary: Erin and David do a report about animal cruelty for their 6th grade gifted class. Their regular classroom teacher rewards the class reading challenge of 300+ books with a trip to the circus. Erin and David object on the grounds of animal cruelty and show Mrs. Dawson proof about this particular company. Mrs. Dawson refuses to listen, and Erin and David are forced to come up with a way to avoid patronizing this circus, convince their teacher to listen to reason, and not turn into the class geeks at the same time. Beyond the classroom, they find that the circus elephant is not only abused, but she is about to be sold to a hunting reserve where she will be murdered. How can they let any of this happen?
Personal Reaction: I really enjoyed this book! Not only did it deal with adolescent feelings of fitting in, but the way that Erin and David face each challenge while keeping in mind that they don’t want to disrespect their teacher is commendable. They consider the viewpoints of others and agree that education is the best way to change people’s attitudes.
Points for discussion with children: Adolescent activism (and in this era of technology, social media’s impact on activism, change.org, etc.)
Possible classroom uses: This is a great way to show that students can make a difference within the classroom, locally, and further! It will appeal to students’ sense that that teachers CAN be wrong, and will give a positive method for dealing with the situation.
Connections to other books? Display with Will You, Won’t You? by Haas or Hope Was Here by Bauer. Both books highlight student involvement in larger issues without detracting from compelling storylines. It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Halpern and the Young Heroes series of biographies should be made available.
Realia: model elephant and/or circus tent, circus tickets, circus poster, fundraising signs or goal chart, information about animal cruelty, toilet paper, TV camera
Food items connected to story: Strawberry milkshake