A few years ago I wrote about Alexander Calder's toys and his famous circus, and I ripped and uploaded an old DVD I had of Carlos Vilardebo's 1961 film of Calder performing the circus to YouTube (it got BoingBoinged!). Since then I've watched it with the kid a few times, but frankly watching a crazy old man in a red shirt play with old toys while speaking pidgin French is a bit boring when you're four.

A few weeks ago I went on a spree buying Maira Kalman's children's books, first picking up the out-of-print Roarr Calder's Circus, produced in 1991 in conjunction with the Whitney Museum (with photographs by Donatella Brun). The book is illustrated with photographs of the actual circus (from the Whitney's collection) on a black background, with Kalman's dizzying text presented in the form of the ringmaster's blustery narration. As you'd expect from Tibor Kalman's wife, the graphic design and text placement is exciting.

And as a book it's surprisingly fantastic.

I'm a sucker for chilren's books that involve photography rather than illustration. Usually when I buy books like this they're more "for me" than they are "for the kid" but this one has proven to be an exception. The kid LOVES Kalman's wordplay. This has been her favorite book for weeks now and I can't think of one she's loved so much in recent memory. I read it to her like an old-fashioned ringmaster, and some of the words ("nincompoop," in particular) crack her up every time.

I know it's not really fair to recommend a book that's been out of print for years, but those well versed in used children's books should have no trouble finding it reasonably priced (we ordered it for $1.99).

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