Reviews for Sandy's Circus : A Story About Alexander Calder

Booklist Reviews 2008 June #1
Artist Alexander Calder's works often find an appreciative audience among kids, so it's surprising that there are so few books about him for young children. This beautifully illustrated picture-book biography fills the void with a spare, direct story that focuses on Calder's youth and what are, perhaps, his most kid-accessible artworks: his wire sculptures of circus performers. Stone distills Calder's youth and early adulthood into just a few lines per page: Calder grew up with encouraging parents who were artists, but it wasn't until he joined the navy and was awestruck by dramatic views from deck that he thought about art school. Later, in Paris, he developed his wire sculptures, including the circus pieces that made him famous. The text is confusingly vague about where and for whom Calder performed his circus, and the final page, which mentions Calder's mobiles, feels rushed. Kulikov's elegant, fanciful, multimedia collages extend the story, though, and they will ignite curiosity in Calder and in his art-making process, which seems as joyful and free-form as children's play. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Calder fashioned an elaborate circus of "tiny pieces of wire, cork, cloth, buttons, yarn, string, leather, paper, and bits of wood." Stone's narrative, which focuses on the artist's early years, is as animated as Calder's figures. Kulikov's full-bleed spreads, too, are vibrant with energy and color. An author's note and a photo of Calder performing his circus are appended. Bib. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #5
Lucky Sandy! Alexander Calder's painter mother and sculptor father made sure the boy had the tools he needed to work at his passion for contriving things from scrap -- toys, jewelry, a castle, circus animals. As an adult, he studied engineering; then, inspired by seeing a glorious "fiery red sunrise" paired with a setting moon "like a silver coin," he went to art school. Soon afterward he was fashioning an elaborate circus of "tiny pieces of wire, cork, cloth, buttons, yarn, string, leather, paper, and bits of wood" -- a work that filled more and more suitcases as he shuttled from Paris to New York to show it. "This bear of a man worked the springs and strings and levers of his clever creations, making them leap, run, and dance." Stone's narrative is as animated as Calder's figures, focusing on his early years and concluding with his invention of the mobile. Kulikov's full-bleed spreads, too, are vibrant with energy and color, the fully formed humans standing out from the black-and-white linear objects whose simple lines pay tribute to Calder's wire medium. Whimsical additions enhance the fun: Calder, a roll of wire over his shoulder, bikes past a parade of painters while a classic Muse floats above; later, she hovers as he strides from one toy-sized city to the other. An admirable introduction to Calder's ebullient creativity, this would pair interestingly with Selznick's Hugo Cabret. Appended are an author's note; a list of eight adult sources, including Calder's autobiography; and a photo of Calder performing his circus. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 August #2
Examining Calder's childhood and young adulthood, Stone focuses on his interest in craft and machinery. The child of artists, an engineering graduate and a tinkerer from the get-go, Sandy made toys, jewelry and even quick-study wire portraits for friends encountered on Parisian streets. His miniature circus, constructed of wire, cork and other found objects, grew to fill five suitcases that trundled between New York and Paris for engrossing, kinetic performances. The lively text shines with apt details. Quotes peppering the narrative, though unattributed specifically, seem carefully interpolated. "People said: ‘He has discovered, in playing, a new world.' His art ‘has the force of the ocean.' " Kulikov's mixed-media illustrations anchor black-and-white sketches (portraying Calder's processes, tools and sources of inspiration) within full-color spreads that playfully celebrate the text. Sandy, shouldering a thick lariat of wire, bicycles through a 1920s Paris teeming with canvas-schlepping artists. His elegant, ever-present laurel-wreathed muse hovers nearby, with a palette (or, in one spread, lugging some of those suitcases). Spritely, noteworthy and nicely timed to Calder's 110th birthday. (author's note, source note) (Picture book/biography. 6-8) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 September #3

Stone (Elizabeth Leads the Way ) gives top billing to a minor but well-chosen aspect of Alexander (Sandy) Calder's distinguished career in a biography that kids can easily connect with. Her Sandy has not yet invented the mobile, but has combined a documented love of making things with a two-week stint drawing the Ringling Brothers circus for a New York paper: the next year, 1926, in Paris, his circus of miniature moveable performers is born. The author gracefully communicates the artist's resourcefulness and sense of play: "His huge hands worked with tiny pieces of wire, cork, cloth, buttons, yarn.... He twisted and shaped and curled and cut and curved until... Sandy was ready to put on a big-top circus show!" Kulikov (Fartiste ) experiments with proportion and scale. Elements are often shown in black-and-white, as if sketched out and superimposed on full-color paintings. Spreads bring readers eye to eye with diminutive circus actors as Calder's gargantuan-seeming hands reach out from the shadows to control them. A classical muse, paint palette in hand, floats over scenes of a giant, suitcase-toting Calder tromping between the shrunken black-and-white skylines of Paris and New York City. Suggestive of Calder's whimsy. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 September

Gr 2-4-- What child--or adult--is not intrigued by a mobile: moving, swaying, changing in light and space as it intrigues and delights. Calder's name is nearly synonymous with these creations, and Stone and Kulikov spin out a fast-moving tale that is in keeping with their high-energy subject. From childhood, Sandy produced an array of objects for friends and family from found materials. As an adult, when hired to draw pictures of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, he took the project one step further, bringing the circus to life with bits of wire, cork, buttons, yarns, and string. Eventually, his creations filled five suitcases, and the performances included chariot races; bucking broncos; and high-wire acts that flipped, leaped, and danced in the air. Audiences loved it. Stone depicts Calder as a man utterly involved in his work, and Kulikov strengthens the premise using two differing styles of illustration--often on the same page. He portrays Calder in a Gulliver-like mode: stepping between New York and Paris in giant strides, forming his wire characters with hands that dominate an entire spread, and sprawling happily across the floor as part of the circus performance. These depictions, in full robust colors, often show Calder in childlike poses, interacting with the wire animals, oblivious to an artist muse who floats above him. In contrast, gray-shaded drawings with bold black lines sometimes crowd into the page, seemingly portraying the working "stuff" of Calder's bursting imagination: a jumbled mixture of tools and ideas that formed his extraordinary artistic creations.--Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA

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