Review Blog

Mar 14 2019

Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

cover image

Shapes trilogy, book 3. Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781406384222.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: STEM, Circles, Friendship, Humour. Inventors of the quirky books, Square and Triangle, this Californian duo have collaborated on another book, Circle. As with the others the simplicity of the tale is beguiling; a circle watches on each page, the size and shape of the eyes and the positioning of the iris giving clues as to how Circle is feeling.
He and his friends, Square and Triangle are playing hide and seek together. Circle outlines the rules, and warns them not to go behind the waterfall. Triangle is curious and asks why. They are told that it is dark in there, but Triangle asserts that he is not afraid of the dark. Readers will know that Triangle will not do as he is told, and eagerly prepare themselves for something a little scary to happen. Circle turns her back and counts to ten but when she turns around, Square is still there but no Triangle. Square reports that Triangle has gone behind the waterfall. It is then up to the brave Circle to follow Triangle and rescue him.
The following pages follow Circle's tentative search of the area behind the waterfall. It is dark and gets darker, and Circle calls out for Triangle in the gloom. Eventually they find each other, after bumping into something else in the dark, and they escape, meeting square at the entrance. All is well, a lesson is learnt.
Klassen's illustrations are pared back, using few colours to create the background of the game with friends. His delightful shapes with their big eyes and roaming irises distil the feelings of each of the three friends to the simplicity of the position of the iris. Readers will watch the iris with satisfaction able to tell exactly what the shapes are feeling and compare these with their own feelings as doing something they are told not to do, or being lost in a strange place or having a friend rescue you and welcome you back. Readers will marvel at the pages of black simply showing two pairs of eyes in the dark, laughing with recognition at their own fear of the dark.
Quirky and funny, Circle will be a hit with younger students, and initiate discussions in the classroom about following rules, mathematical shapes, fear of the dark and friendship. An activity kit for the series is available.
Fran Knight

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