Cover image for Last night I dreamed a circus
Last night I dreamed a circus
Gottfried, Maya.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : A.A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2003.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
A young girl dreams of being part of the circus.
General Note:
"Borzoi Books."

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Many children dream of going to the circus, but our narrator dreams herself right into the act. She is the graceful horseback rider and the clown. The daring trapeze artist and the dancing dog. The contortionist and the roaring lion. These stars of the circus are depicted in splendid, dramatic portraits by noted watercolorist Robert Rahway Zakanitch. Each vividly colored performer is set against a black background that invokes both a life in the spotlight and the focused landscape of dreams. Poetic and spare, the text invites readers to extend the story in their own imaginations--in their own circus dreams.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

PreS^-Gr. 3. In richly poetic, but very simple, language, a dreamlike spectacle unfolds. Each text page, which usually has only one line of text printed on a different matte color, faces an image inspired by and reflecting the words. For example, "I spun circles round the stars" faces a picture of an acrobat twirling in space suspended by her teeth. A clown in a gorgeous rose-patterned robe juggling rose-shaped plates accompanies the line reading, "And juggled a rose garden." Zakanitch's paintings, all done on black or dark backgrounds, feature brilliant colors and fabulous patterns that owe something to the Cirque du Soleil as well as to Eastern European folk art. Circus performers and animal acts alike are garbed in stunning costumes, and the rhythm of the text both lulls and excites. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gottfried's meditative debut is accompanied by the artwork of fine artist Zakanitch, also a newcomer to children's books. Evocative watercolors of circus folk in full regalia suggest a slow-motion performance. The parade of acrobats and animals begins with the title words, "Last night I dreamed a circus," offset by an image of a man doing a one-handed handstand on horseback. "I spun circles round the stars," the text continues, alongside a woman who grips a rope in her teeth and whirls like a corkscrew. "I twisted in knots" pictures a contortionist in an exotic red-and-white bodysuit. "And I laughed" features a startling, grinning chimpanzee in feather headgear and a dress, hanging from parallel hoops. Zakanitch poses the characters in spangled tights, skin-tight costumes with curlicues and (in one case) a magnificent patterned cape which alludes to Alexandre Benois's and Lon Bakst's costume designs for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The artist enfolds his performers in heavy black or midnight-blue backgrounds, so that they seem at once spotlit and suspended in tar; the trapeze artists are sealed in space, while other performers stand rigidly as though taking a bow. Likewise, Gottfried's placid, unrhymed lines end firmly in periods, arresting the action on each page and building up inertia. These characters don't fly through the air with the greatest of ease, but their fanciful procession plus Zakanitch's extravagant costumes should garner some oohs and aahs. Ages 3-6. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2-Dramatic artwork and a brief text combine to make a visually intriguing, although fairly static story that nevertheless evokes the otherworldliness of the circus. Each sentence accompanies a full-page painting that depicts a colorfully costumed performer set against a black background. For example, "I spun circles round the stars," is paired with the image of a woman dangling in midair from a rope held between her teeth. Other characters include a clown, a lion tamer, and a bird handler, while the only double-page spread shows a man swinging upside down on a trapeze, his arms stretched out to catch a flying acrobat. The dream setting, along with the momentous pronouncements of the narrator ("I wore the sunset on a velvet cape. And carried the birds that sang the sky") and the expressionistic illustrations create a somewhat mystical impression. Some readers may find this book textured enough to visit more than once, but others may feel impatient with such solemnity applied to a circus theme. For livelier stories about imaginary participation in events under the big top, try Marjorie Priceman's Emeline at the Circus (Knopf, 1999) and Ian Falconer's Olivia Saves the Circus (Atheneum, 2001).-Kathie Meizner, Montgomery County Public Libraries, Chevy Chase, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.