If the new Hollywood production starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in the movie version of Sara Gruen’s book Water for Elephants has you in circus mode, check out the following other fiction or non-fiction tales of the traveling show. They’re available at your neighborhood library. Or you may be able to download the ebooks for free with your library card from the Hawaii State Public Library System website at

Happy reading.

Chang and Eng

By Darin Strauss

Adult Fic

Combining fiction with astonishing fact, the author tells the story of history’s most famous twins. Born in Siam in 1811, Chang and Eng Bunker were international celebrities before the age of twenty. Touring the world’s stages as a circus act, they settled in the American South eventually marrying two sisters and fathering twenty one children between them. They lived more than six decades attached at the chest by a small band of skin and cartilage.  Well reviewed, the book rescues two of the nineteenth century’s most fabled human oddities.

Cirque du Soleil: 20 Years under the Sun

By Tony Babinski

791.309 Ba

This retrospective was published to celebrate twenty years of the phenomenal circus and theater experience that is Cirque du Soleil-its origins, its struggles, and its victories — told by the artists themselves.

The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America

By Larry McMurtry

978.02092 Mc

Western fiction author McMurtry chronicles the rise to fame, fortune, and international celebrity of two of the West’s most enduring figures and America’s first real superstars. From the early 1800s to the end of his life in 1917, Buffalo Bill Cody was as famous as anyone could be. Annie Oakley was his most celebrated protégée, the “slip of a girl” from Ohio who could (and did) outshoot anybody to become the most celebrated star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. McMurtry explores the lives, legends and the truths about these two larger-than-life American figures.

Embrace Me: Believing is Seeing

By Lisa Samson

Adult Fic

The award-winning Christian fiction author presents a fable of love and power, hiding and seeking, woundedness and redemption. When a “lizard woman,” a self-mutilating preacher, a tattooed monk, and a sleazy lobbyist find themselves in the same North Carolina town one winter, their lives are edging precariously close to disaster … and improbably close to grace.

P.T. Barnum: America’s Greatest Showman

Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr.

791.3092 Barnum

This biography of Phineas Taylor Barnum and his traveling show. Barnum dedicated his long career to “alleviating the severe and drudging practicalness” he considered the chief defect of American civilization. His remedy was a prodigious swarm of divas, minstrels, circuses, museums of curiosities, beauty pageants, sideshows, fat baby and poultry contests-whatever it took to entertain his fellow citizens while making him one of his country’s first millionaires. For better or for worse Barnum’s influence is still felt on our popular culture.

Slow Dollar

By Margaret Maron

Adult Fic

This entry in the author’s Deborah Knott series featuring the quick-witted North Carolina Judge, takes place when a ragtag carnival comes to town. But it’s not all try-your-luck and stuffed prizes, Murder stalks the midway and when one gaffed game ends with a brutal death, Deborah discovers more than just a body. It is fast-paces and suspenseful.

Serpent Girl

By Matthew Carnahan

Adult Fic

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on with a traveling circus when the tents fold and the sawdust is swept up, this is the show for you. A voyage into the darkest depths of carny life-and remarkably, a funny and tender love story as well. Carnahan mixes real freaks with freaky West Coast dopers, with a brisk and winsome depravity and a talent for making you laugh out loud.

A Son of the Circus

By John Irving

Adult Fic

Author of The World According to Garp and Cider House Rules delivers a novel set in sultry Bombay concerning people who do not feel at home in the world. With a wild cast of odd characters, and a hunt for a murderer, the narrative gives Irving room to speculate on outcasts of all kinds, the volatility of sexual identity, the false lure of organized religion, the insidious evil of class distinctions, and the chasm between appearance and reality. Get on board for a wild ride.

Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show

By Frank Delaney

Adult Fic

While Ireland roils in the national election of 1932, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope Ben’s father, mesmerized by headliner Venetia Kelly decides to run off with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Shattered by the desertion, Ben’s mother demands, “find him and bring him back;” there-by sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood. The book explores two of Ireland’s great national passions: theater and politics.

Elephant Man

By Charles R. Morris

DVD Movie

John Hurt renders a moving portrayal of John Merrick, the grotesquely deformed Victorian-era man better known as The Elephant Man. Inarticulate and abused, Merrick is the virtual slave of a carnival barker until a dedicated London doctor rescues him from the life and offers him an existence with dignity. The movie is shot in a rich black-and-white palette with Lynch’s unique cinematic eye. For other circus themed DVD movies you can pick up at Lihu‘e Library check out Big Fish, La Vie en Rose or Two Brothers.

• Carolyn Larson, head librarian at Lihu‘e Public Library, brings you the buzz on new, popular and good books available at your neighborhood library. Book annotations are culled from online publishers’ descriptions and published reviews.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.