Review: 'Son of the Circus: A Victorian Story'

VOICES is an exciting narrative non-fiction series that celebrates the lives of BAME protagonists during key eras of British history, for children aged 8+. The third book in the series, Son of the Circus: A Victorian Story, tells the story of Ted, the mixed race son of Pablo Fanque (the first recorded black circus owner in Britain) and his introduction to life with the circus. This is a gripping adventure that examines attitudes to race in the Victorian period.


Read on for Review Panel member Julie's review of the book...

Book Title: Son of the Circus A Victorian Story (available here)

Author: E L Norry

Illustrator: Alette Straathof

Publisher: Scholastic

Publication Date: September 2019

Most Suitable For: Year 4-6

Reviewed By: Julie Wells, Y5/6 Teacher

Having been entranced by The Greatest Showman and thoroughly enjoying Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd-Jones this book appealed with its intriguing blurb. I wanted to find out more about Ted and George and their discovery that Pablo Fanque (the first black circus owner of in Britain) was their father. Telling the story of ‘ordinary’ people from the past is a great way to engage with history and might help to bring to life a previous era. The anecdotal detail about life in Victorian England certainly helped to make this story stand out from modern-day settings. As well as being an enjoyable, emotional tale I felt a learned a lot from this thought-provoking read.


The story was engagingly written and the struggles of the main character felt real as his story developed. I was intrigued to see the author’s note at the end of the book and love the fact that this character was real; the fact that his struggles and tribulations were true made the story even more emotive.


The book raised lots of questions and teaching points for me. The idea that a son was expected to continue a family trade (and the pressure that may bring), the way different races were viewed and treated in the past and the choices children get to make (or not make) as they are forced to move and change.


I think this book would appeal to readers interested in historical stories and the links with the Greatest Showman may make it accessible to those who would not immediately choose it from the shelf.


Also features on:

Victorians Booklist



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You can order Son of the Circus 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 Julie for reviewing it.


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