Our celebration of Black History Month here at Gathering Books may be over but our bimonthly theme – Circus, Carnivale, and Paranormal Twists – continues for another week or so. For today’s feature, I decided to share with you another picture book discovery: Etgar Keret’s Dad Runs Away With the Circus, illustrated by Rutu Modan.
Dad Runs Away With the Circus is the first picture book I’ve read that was created by an Israeli writer and illustrator. The title speaks for itself. Audrey and Zach’s father decided to join the circus. The plot is simple, linear, and straightforward.
“The circus is in town!” Dad roared. “And we’re all going to see it!”
Dad was so happy. We tried to be happy too, but mostly we were wondering whether he had woken up the neighbors.
That morning, Dad couldn’t stop talking about the circus. He behaved very irresponsibly, pulling all sorts of wild and dangerous stunts that could have ended in tears.
Generation Gap: The Great Divide Between Parents and Teenagers. Dad Runs Away With the Circus is Etgar Keret’s first book for children. The plot may be simple but it touches on a social issue that I think is still relevant today: the generation gap between parents and children, particularly the teenagers. (To be honest, I think the issue of generation gap is even more relevant today as it was in the previous years, thanks to the growing influence of media and technology.)
Audrey had to miss her judo lesson, and I really wanted to watch TV, but we knew that Dad would be insulted if we didn’t come along.
The [circus] acts were decent, especially the lions and the acrobats. Somehow, though, the way Dad told it had all sounded a little more exciting.
When you read books, do you have an “aww” moment? I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you answered ‘yes’ to that question. The quote above was my “aww” moment in the book, and it wasn’t the “aww sweet” moment. It was the “aww poor Dad” moment. I found myself sympathizing with the Dad because it didn’t seem like his children were taking him seriously.
Dreams Are Free For the Young and Old. In my review of Susan V. Bosak’s Dream, I used a quote from a beloved author. Allow me to use it here again:
“You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream another dream.”
– C.S. Lewis
In addition to the existing generation gap, Dad Runs Away With the Circus illustrates the notion that everyone is entitled to dream and to make it come true. In Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, middle adults fall under the conflict between generativity and stagnation. There is a need for adults to ‘create’ and be productive, and to bring about a positive change for them and for others. In Dad’s case in the story, joining the circus fulfills his lifelong dream.
Did Dad ever come back to his family? I leave that for you readers to find out. If Etgar Keret were to extend the story to Dad’s life after the circus, then readers would be reading about Dad who, upon looking back on his life, felt a sense of fulfillment for accomplishing his dream.
Endnotes. Be it a picture book or your average paperback, book discoveries are always fun. Needless to say, I’m glad I discovered Dad Runs Away With the Circus. The book was translated into 7 different languages including English. (It was also in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.) There was not much written about this picture book, and I was unable to find teacher resources for the book.
One article mentioned that the book was a finalist for the Andersen Awards in 2003 but no other article could support this so that is questionable for now. (If you find one that confirms this award, please share us the link in the comments box below.) Nevertheless, artist Rutu Modan was awarded the Andersen International Honor Citation in 2002 for her illustrations in Dad Runs Away With the Circus.
Dad Runs Away With the Circus
By Etgar Keret, illustrated by Rutu Modan
Reading Level: Ages 8 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Candlewick Press (Aug 2004)
Book borrowed from the Chula Vista Public Library.
Book photos taken by me.