Watch Out for Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community

Posted on Jun 5, 2016 in BR Library

9781561458219By Cynthia Levinson
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
Pages: 224
Lexile: 930L
Age Range: 10 – 13 Years

The author of We’ve Got a Job explores the world of social circus—a movement that brings kids from different worlds together to perform remarkable acts on a professional level. Levinson follows the participants of two specific circuses that also work together periodically: Circus Harmony, in St. Louis, whose participants are inner-city and suburban kids, and Circus Galilee in Israel, whose participants and Jews and Arabs. As the kids’ relationships evolve over time, the members learn how to overcome assumptions, animosity, and obstacles both physical and personal.



“This impressive book introduces teens to two circus schools: Arches in urban St. Louis, MO, and the Galilee Circus in Karmiel, Israel. Each has a purpose: to create an appealing activity for kids and to bring together those who would never meet otherwise—enrolling both black and white students in racially tense St. Louis and Arab and Jewish children in divided Israel. Levinson follows nine diverse beginners through their years of honing circus skills like juggling, tumbling, and trapeze, while learning to understand and trust colleagues who would eventually become performance partners. A span of four visits from 2007 and 2012 between the Arches and the Galileans exposed the Americans to a whole new world, while the Israelis determined to match the Arches’ professionalism—by their last meeting, they were able to combine their talents for a triumphant tour. Watching each of the nine troupers grow and bond is exciting, but especially fascinating is Levinson’s report as the teens were graduating from high school. The boys decide to make circus their careers (several were admitted to the prestigious École nationale de cirque in Montreal); the girls preferred to enter university to study other subjects, while teaching circus skills. Ironically, war led to the Arches being detained on a later trip to Israel When they finally reached St. Louis, a white policeman fatally shot an unarmed black man, resulting in outraged protests. (The empathy and trust the circuses had fostered applied only to a tiny percentage of their populations.) But both circuses go on, continuing to evolve and adapt. Included are an Author’s Note, a pronunciation guide, and an abundance of beautiful color photographs on heavy glossy paper. Readers may want to run away and join the circus!”
Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 11 up.
–Children’s Literature

“Welcome to a particular type of circus—where the child performers may just change the world “one acrobat, contortionist, and flyer at a time.” The mission of a youth social circus is to bring together young people who don’t ordinarily meet and to teach them to work together as circus performers. The young performers of Circus Harmony in St. Louis and the Galilee Circus in Israel demonstrate what happens when people of different backgrounds work together to perform—to “fly above the fray” and “walk the tightrope of politics and friendships.” Levinson expertly establishes the historical context behind the circuses—the legacy of racial segregation in St. Louis and the troubled history of Arabs and Jews in Palestine—and shows that, in spite of the world around them, “Jews and Arabs…blacks, whites, Muslims, Christians—all kids—can get along. And that circus is an especially enchanting means in which to do so.” The text itself is a juggling act as she follows nine young performers, two circus directors, and the coaches in telling the story, based on 120 hours of personal interviews. Color photographs, sidebars, and a lengthy pronunciation guide to Arabic and Hebrew names, words, and expressions used in the text round out a thoroughly enjoyable volume. Enchanting indeed—and inspiring as well.”
(Nonfiction. 9-14)
—Kirkus Reviews