book cover Runaway Circus
by Gordon Reece

Picture book | 32 pp | Years 24

Getting Started


[ Overview | Author profile | Focus questions ]


The Runaway Circus is an amusing and amazing tale about a group of human and animal circus performers who run away from the circus and join Joanna at home and at school. The actions of the performers add delightful humour to the story as each member of the circus uses their skills to disrupt some part of Joanna's daily life.

Gordon Reece's clear, bright and simple illustrations capture the antics of the circus acts effectively. The illustrations enrich the text, visually explaining circus roles such as contortionist and escapologist. Exaggerated actions placed in an ordinary setting add to the humorous delight of this book. Observant readers will note more happening in the story than the text reveals, especially at the close of the book.

The simplicity of this story makes it enjoyable for the very young. However the illustrations also add a humorous, thought-provoking and alternative look at ordinary life offering older readers a story that will not only amuse, but may also make them think about the way people behave in different situations and how this can affect others.

Author profile

Gordon Reece grew up in England and worked as a teacher before going back to university to study law. He worked as a lawyer from 1994 to 1999 before deciding he was ready for a change in his life. Gordon and his wife moved to Spain, where he became a full-time children's book writer and illustrator. He has worked on over twenty books since then. Gordon immigrated to Australia in 2005 and The Runaway Circus is his first Australian publication.

Focus questions

Before reading the book

  • From the title, and without looking at the cover, predict what you think this book may be about.
  • Examine the front cover of the book. What clues does the author provide to clearly show who is running away?
  • What skills do you think each of the performers on the front cover has? How do you think these skills could be used outside the circus?
  • Read the back cover of the book. Why do you think the text is written in three different colours? How would you describe the purpose of the words in each coloured section?
  • What would be the advantages and disadvantages for performers who lived and worked in a circus?

During and after reading the book

  • What acts do you think are performed at this circus?
  • What reasons could explain why the circus performers wanted to run away from the circus?
  • How would you describe the circus performers' behaviour when they were away from the circus?
  • How has Gordon Reece used illustrations to explain the different skills of the performers and to show that they use their skills to do their best?
  • How are the performers' skills applied in a way that is useful to Joanna and her school friends?
  • How have the performers' skills been used to cause discomfort or distress to others?

© Curriculum Corporation 2006