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Book Reviews

The Circle Game

by Joni Mitchell; Brian Deines, illus.

Since its release on her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon, “The Circle Game” has endured as one of the best-loved songs by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Though those old enough to remember hearing it at that time are now also old enough to be grandparents, the song retains its freshness, as this illustrated edition of the lyrics proves.

The book presents a boy at four stages in his life: a wondering and fearful small child; an energetic but dreamy 10-year-old; a teenager giving up cartwheels for car wheels; and a young man of 20 finding new dreams.  A refrain at the end of each stanza describes “the carousel of time” that takes us all “round and round and round in the circle game.” 

Brian Deines’ brilliant pictures convey both energy and motion, and the reflective mood of the song. The carousel horses are shown from different and interesting perspectives, allowing the reader to feel as though she is actually on the ride, caught up in the colour and motion that are simultaneously beautiful and a bit scary.

The passage of time, the changing seasons, and the maturing of a child are themes inherently more interesting to adolescents and adults than young children, but the compelling rhythms of the verse and the glorious illustrations should ensure a wide appeal, and make for a book that can be happily shared by different generations.