Review: Nell & the Circus of Dreams

BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations



Book Title: Nell & the Circus of Dreams (available here)

Author: Nell Gifford

Illustrator: Briony May Smith

Publisher: OUP

Publication Date: May 2019

Most Suitable For: KS1

Reviewed by: Jo Littlewood (@miss_lw_reads), Year 1 Teacher

One summer, Nell’s mother was so ill that she didn’t get out of bed. Nell spent much of her time alone, until she found a tiny chick on the farm she called home. Nell took Rosebud, the chick, inside and cared for her, trying not to worry about losing her new friend. But it was only when Rosebud disappeared that the magic happened. In hunting for her animal friend, Nell found a circus and was welcomed by a whole host of new friends. The magic of the circus, with its bright lights and colourful characters helps Nell to feel a little less alone. But once the show is over, the circus leaves and all that is left is a circle of golden sawdust. Was the circus real or just a part of Nell's imagination?


Written by the founder of a circus, this beautiful picture book strongly reflects the magic, excitement and family feel of the circus. The vocabulary selected by the author helps the reader to build up an exciting picture in their mind. There are some wonderful phrases used which build up the sense of magic in the story.


The illustrations complement the story wonderfully and reflect Nell's sense of loneliness, anxiety and belonging. I particularly liked the attention to detail when she has lost Rosebud and rushes out of the house, losing her slippers as she dashes towards the meadow. Every page when Nell is with the circus is packed with things to get children talking, and later writing, from the circus being set up, to the scene inside the big top.


This would be a great book to use in KS1 for a topic focussed around the circus. There are lots of ideas that could be taken into continuous provision for role play and small world. Children could write invitations to the circus or make posters, or it would be a great starting point for a PE unit on balancing and gymnastics.


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You can order Nell and the Circus of Dreams online or from your local bookshop or library.




Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel member Jo for reviewing it.

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