Purebred and razzle-dazzle pink, Pete the poodle is the biggest star in the Circus Martinez. But when he muffs a couple of flaming-hoop jumps, he gets bumped from the headliner spot. Pete’s just about ready to roll over and play dead when he comes nose to nose with the new attraction, a supersized grizzly bear named Fremont, who was captured from the wild a few nights before. Despite their knee-shaky beginning, Pete and Fremont hit it off. And together they learn that, though it’s no place for rookies or hopeless has-beens, the circus is a breeding ground for first-class camaraderie.
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JENNY TRIPP comes to the field of children’s books from a diverse and illustrious career as a screenwriter. She has also written humor and travel pieces for various magazines. She lives in Essex, Connecticut.
JOHN MANDERS has illustrated more than a dozen award-winning books for children, including Humphrey, Albert, and the Flying Machine by Kathryn Lasky. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Saturday, June 12, a year ago this summer, is a day I’ll never forget. And believe me, I’ve tried. We were playing a woodsy little town, up near the top of the map. The evening show was sold out as usual.
I lost my puppy teeth long ago, but I’m all the dog I ever was or most of it, anyway. But on this particular evening, there was a kind of rainy fog hanging around that seemed to sink into my bones.
My hind legs were stiff. I could feel a little twinge in my walk that worried me. I first noticed it at rehearsal, when I blew my somersault coming off the rolla-bolla ball.
Sophie, Imelda, and Czarina the Lipizzaner sisters were getting their glossy, white manes braided in the wings and saw me go sprawling in the sawdust. Peter, you are all right?” Sophie whinnied, tossing her long, elegant head.
The Lipizzaner mares are what you’d call circus royalty. Their ancestors played the Colosseum back in ancient Rome, and they don’t let anyone forget it. But there’s no harder working horses in show business, or nags with more heart. They’d go on with three broken legs if they had to.
Nah, Sophie, just missed my mark,” I barked back, as Mike, our trainer, bent down to pat me.
Hurt yourself, old boy?” Mike asked softly, checking my back legs with careful, sure hands. The old boy” hurt worse than the fall, but I licked his face anyhow, just to let him know I was okay. He and his wife, Greta, are pretty bright, as people go. But when you’re trying to communicate with humans, you’ve got to keep it simple.
Wouldn’t you know it, Lolly was right there, too. She batted puppy-dog eyes back at me from under her bonnet. Hope you’re not too shook to do the finale,” she cooed.
Don’t get your hopes up,” I snapped.
She was practically drooling to hear that I wouldn’t be going on. Fat chance! I gave her a toothy smile, then jumped up and did a flip, just to show her. I wasn’t about to let this upstart mutt think I was gonna play dead while she bumped me out of the spotlight.
Bravo, Bone Breath!” I heard Rita holler from the high wire, where she was lazing around as usual. But you better save it for show time. Who knows how many more of those you got in you?”
She wouldn’t have made that crack if she’d been down here where I could get to her. But that’s a chimp for you. Just smart enough to keep out of snapping distance but too dumb to keep her trap shut.
I’ve known Rita all my life, but she’s not gonna win most popular” any time soon. Opposable thumbs and a twisted sense of humor make a rotten combination. Who else would or even could? pull the kind of practical jokes Rita does? Like when she stuck a lollipop on PeeWee the ostrich’s tail feathers? The poor dope started whirling so fast trying to catch hold of that sucker, he plowed smack into the cotton candy machine. Neither of them has really been the same since.
Anyhow, I’ve discovered that the best way to deal with a smart aleck like Rita is to let what she says just blow by me. So I went on with rehearsal and didn’t muff it again.
But I knew she and Lolly would be watching tonight.
The first fifteen minutes of a show are my favorite part. The band starts to play. The crowd presses though the ticket gates and climbs into the bleachers. The big top is stretched tight overhead, striped bright red and white like a colossal peppermint drop. Little kids are clutching their balloons and cotton candy, so excited they can’t sit still.
Backstage, everyone’s zipping up costumes and daubing on greasepaint, checking props and warming up. The air is buzzing with the feeling that something amazing could happen, will happen, any minute now.
Then the horns blare a fanfare, and the spotlight hits the ringmaster center ring. Lifting his top hat, he bellows, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Biggest Little Circus on Earth Circus Martinez!”
His big black whip hisses and cracks S-s-s-s-s-s-snap! as the band swings into our theme song. Places, everyone! It’s magic time.
Tonight, like all those other nights, us dogs and our humans were ready and waiting in the wings. Scrappy, his clown hat in place, was chewing at his stubby tail, trying to squash a frisky flea. Lolly, baby bonnet tied under her chin, was sprawled on the floor, probably daydreaming about spitting her pacifier out for good. Mike’s wife, Greta, was giving my pom-pom a final fluff.
Scraps laid off his tail and cocked his head at me. That was a rough tumble you took, Pete. You all right?” he asked.
I could see Lolly’s ears perk up.
Never better, Scraps,” I answered, but I was looking at Lolly when I said it.
I could see the other dogs trading worried looks. Nobody likes bad feeling in the act. But there was no time to pick that bone now. Up on hind legs, we jogged briskly out from the wings, me in the lead and Mike and Greta bringing up the rear. On with the show!
When you’re doing a performance, time seems to go by in a flash, like someone’s pushed the fast-forward button. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom, ba-da-bam! The next thing I know I’m twirling my baton and making the rolla-bolla ball sail circles around the ring. The crowd’s loving me, and I’m loving them back. The twinge in my hindquarters is history.
I dash smartly into place on the end of the springboard for the finale. I can feel Lolly’s greedy gaze on me. Let her look, I think to myself, and see how a real star shines!
The drumroll begins, deep and exciting, and the spotlight hits my spangled jacket. Greta quickly rolls the kiddy pool into place. Mike sets the hoop on the stand and lights it on fire.
The crowd holds its breath. Even the littlest kids stop hollering and hold still. All eyes are on me. The trumpet sounds my cue. I give a mighty leap, and the springboard throws me high into the air. One flip, two flips, three
And that’s when it all goes up in smoke.
Text copyright © 2007 by Jenny Tripp
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Sandpiper, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 1. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0152062386
Book Description HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. John Manders (illustrator). book. Bookseller Inventory # M0152062386
Book Description HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110152062386