Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to make a Circus Book

Hello everyone.

I was fortunate to be a presenter at the 2014 Young Writer's Conference on Saturday.  Students from Grade 4 - 8 attend workshops to hone their creative writing skills.  There are also a few art workshops offered that are related to illustration and bookmaking.

This was my workshop, "The Paper Circus".

It's an accordion book that when you are finished reading becomes a circus tent.

Pretty cool hey!

and as I told my students once you know how to make this book form the possibilities are endless.

Like a safari tent, nature habitat, Roman pavilion, market stall, settlers fort, etc.
Oh the books you could make…and the stories you could write!


- book form template
- posterboard, cardstock, or manila tag.  You need a heavy paper that will support the structure.
- extra scraps of paper
- paint, acrylic or tempera it's up to you
- single hole punch
- paper fasteners
- 1 inch pompom
- tacky glue, glue gun (adults only)
- stickers, reinforcements
- fine sharpie
- coin envelopes
- string
- toothpick
- coffee stir stick
- wooden clothespin
- tickets from Dollar store (optional)
- Circus images, see this link
- mini paper brad
- small plastic animal


Using template trace out the book form.

I used poster board.  I'm finding a lot of poster board lately that does not have a shiny side.  This way it takes paint beautifully on both sides.

Cut out book as one full piece.  Fold the on the vertical lines to form the pages. It's accordion style.

Fold down the tops.

and again.

Punch a hole in the top of each page.

I painted mine like a striped tent.  It looks better if your stripes taper at the top.

When the stripes have dried turn over and paint the inside of the tent. I did horizontal stripes. Yellow for the sawdust stage, blue and red bleachers, black for the crowd (you could add faces in the crowd here) and yellow at the top.

You can add stickers or reinforcements to decorate.

I bought a white ticket roll at the Dollar Store.  I like buying white supplies as I can always paint them to fit.

For the front cover I painted the tickets and a title.

I also added a elephant and some text.

I explained to the kids that when I add text I often want it coloured.  Rather than use coloured paper I write my words in pencil and then sharpie,

and then I just paint it and cut it out.

This is my first page.  I'm using the top tabs as 'lift the flap's in this book.

My Strongman is a 'lift the flap' as well.

To make this 'lift the flap' I just use a piece of card stock that I fold.

If you want my design it's on the template page.

Lift the flaps are great to add action for your characters, for the passage of time, to change settings, etc.

My second page uses a pull tab to make Bob dance.

Make a base out of a scrap of card stock.

Cut a strip out of card stock.  I always start long as I can always trim later.  Make sure it's narrower than your base.

You want to glue your base in place, but you want to leave the middle open so your strip can pass freely.

I made Bob out of paper and then glued him to the top of the strip.  I painted my strip as well to fit in with the background.

Slide your tab into place.  Now you can trim it if you need to.

My 3rd page has my trapeze artist.

You lift the flap and he is flying there and when you set up the book he is flying in the centre of the tent.

For the swing I used these coloured sticks I got from the Dollar Store.  You could also use a toothpick.

Using my stick as a measure I sketched my trapeze guy.

I gave him big hands and long arms, you'll see why in a minute.

Cut your figure out and paint.  I did both sides.

Put some glue on the hands,

Fold hands over the stick.

Attach a string to either side about 7 inches.

Attach to the top of the tab on that page. I just used a slip knot.

My 4th page…..

has a puppet and a spin wheel.

The puppet is made out of card stock and a coffee stir stick that I painted.

For this puppet I attach the clown to the bottom of the stick.

For the spin wheel I punched out a circle, divided it like a pizza, and made a hole in the middle with a sharp pencil.

I painted it, added some options on the wheel, I then used a small paper brad to attach to the page.

When attaching make it loose so it will spin better.

For the 5th page I added stickers to a coin envelope.

Whenever I have loose parts and pieces in a book I add an envelope so I have a place to store those items.

I wanted a little circus animal so I had an accessory for my circus structure.

I glued on a little collar.

This is my 5th page.

The envelope is glued into place.

To pull the book together you still need 2 things.

A paper fastener with a pompom hot glued to it.

You also need a closure for the book to keep it together when it's not being read or set up.

So I painted a wooden clothespin and  glued on a couple of pompoms.

So this is the book accordion style.

To set it up bring the tabs from the 2 end pages together matching the holes up, then bring in the centre.  I put the centre one in at this time so my trapeze guy will dangle correctly.

If you are using the structure for something else it doesn't matter what order you use.

Insert the paper fastener thru the hole.

That's it.

So don't just sit come and join the CIRCUS!

Here is some student work from Saturday and I want to thank my terrific assistant Corinne who made the sessions flow so well with her organization!

Take care everyone and I'll see you next time.



  1. WOW oh WOW dear Gail, this is totally outstanding!!! I LOVE IT!!! the ideas that come from your head are sooooo super duper!!! Thank you, thank you soooo very much for sharing such a fabbo idea!! Can't wait to give it a go!
    Smiles Sharnee :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! My kids are going to LOVE this project! I also loved your idea of creating places other than the circus-the sky is the limit!

  3. This is amazing!!! I will have to try this! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hey dear Gail!
    Well as said, i wanted to give this a go and the children absolutely LOVED IT!!! So did I, such wonderful instructions, thanks again!!
    If you want to check it out please see our take here....
    Smiles Sharnee :)