The Clown of God

by Tomie DePaola

Hardcover, 2018



Call number

Child > Picture Books


Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2018), Edition: Reissue, 48 pages


A once-famous Italian juggler, now old and a beggar, gives one final performance before a statue of Our Lady and the Holy Child.

User reviews

LibraryThing member sullijo
I first encountered The Clown of God in college, during a course on spirituality and developmental psychology. It tells the story of a poor beggar boy who finds joy and fame in his juggling -- and surprising blessings as well.

dePaola does an excellent job adapting this "old story" to medieval
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Italy; the setting fits the story like a glove. The delightful illustrations bring the story to life. My children love pouring over the rich images.

A great story for kids and adults alike, The Clown of God gets my highest recommendation.
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LibraryThing member NUMCLibrary
Wonderful legend for illuminating stewardship and the offering of gifts and talents. Appropriate for 2nd grade and up.
LibraryThing member June6Bug
A beautifully illustrated story about the gift of one's self.
LibraryThing member eecnelsen
This book has many angles you could teach from. I think the biggest lesson is that we are born with nothing and die with nothing. The clown became famous but in the end of his life he was just as he was when he was young. He was poor and had to beg for food. I loved the book it was very touching
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but I think it would be hard to teach a lesson with.
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LibraryThing member srrush
The story is about a little boy named Giovanni who was a poor beggar. He had a gift of juggling and entertained many people throughout the years. As he grew older, Giovanni became less and less popular. He loved juggling but people did not stop to watch him anymore. Putting aside juggling forever,
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he went on a long journey and eventually fell asleep in a church. He woke up to a processional honoring the statue of the child and his mother, Jesus and Mary. After everyone left Giovanni went before the statue and offered all that he had, his gift of juggling. He died while juggling and the statue of the child remains looking at the juggler and holding the golden ball, called the "Sun of the Heavens"
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LibraryThing member coresonk
Lovingly illustrated by Tomie dePaola, this tale brought me to tears. The story of Giovanni the clown who brings joy to all the people of Italy, until he becomes old and they turn on him. So he goes home and falls asleep in the church. His last act in life is to try to bring joy to the Holy Child
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on Christmas day. It's really beautiful. This could be a great morality tale to share with children. The message that sometimes just putting a smile on someone's face is a good deed.
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LibraryThing member MarthaL
A wonderfully illustrated and awesome book with profound message for adults as well as older children. Themes include vocation, aging, determination, religious devotion and the miraculous. A good read aloud in Christian schools especially, but well suited when a multicultural theme is wanted..
LibraryThing member hvachetta
Giovanni the juggler learns that his gift can be used to give glory to God. This is a retelling of a French oral legend. Tomie de Paola, like many storytellers before him, has changed some aspects to fit his own experience, and has given the story an Italian setting. This book is recommended for
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children in 2nd grade and up. It could be effectively used as a supplement to lessons in early childhood religion classes or Sunday school.
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LibraryThing member fashionablyloud1
One of my favorite authors growing up, my son too! When reading any Tomie de Paola it is even more entertaining with an Italian accent! The rhymes are fun & catchy, melodic to my 2 year old! Reading this story at breakfast time always makes for a happy day!
LibraryThing member dukefan86
This is an interesting story (and legend) about a boy with a gift for entertaining audiences with his juggling. The story lends itself well to dePaola's colorful drawing style!
LibraryThing member AudreyLast
This book was actually a big surprise for me. I think it has a lot of religious influence and a strong message. The illustrations really give a lot to the story. It shows how Giovanni grows with age and sadness, and how his clothes became rags. The pictures also show how the crowds reacted to his
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juggling, when they loved him, and they hated him after he dropped the golden ball. Also, the story line showed how Giovanni’s life gave him great experiences. He had no mother and father, but fended for himself and figured out how to survive through his juggling. Giovanni then goes to discover how happy he can make others with his skill. He uses it to make people laugh and smile, but only realizes this at the end of the story when he needs to give a gift to the Holy Child. The big message in the book is to never take for granted a skill. It can eventually lead you to something great. In Giovanni’s case, he ended up dying with the Holy Child accepting Giovanni’s gift.
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LibraryThing member Macmom
my favorite Tomie dePaola book.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
This is a French legend originally told by the master storyteller Anatole France. This is a story of a mother and fatherless child whose name was Giovanni. Roaming throughout the countryside, he learned to juggle. Sharing his talent brough him a lot of joy.
He helped a local man, Signor Baptista,
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sell his fruit and vegetables by juggling the oranges, apples, and lemons, and the eggplants and zucchini vegtables. In return, he was given a large bowl of soup at the end of the day.

As he grew older, Giovanni traveled more territory and used more items to juggle, including brightly colored balls. The brightest was a beautiful golden ball. As he grew older, he made mistakes. One day he dropped the rainbow of colored balls. He no longer was important and thus people threw vegtables, fruits and vegtetales . Running for his life, the old man walked back to Sorrento, the area where he began.

Cold and weary, he found a monestery church. He crept inside the church and found an area where he could sleep. Beautiful music awoke him and Giovannie found the church overwhelming in beauty.

Seeing a beautiful statue of the Lady and the Child. The child seemed so stern and sad. Giovannie wondered what gift he could give the mother and child, and then put his white makeup on his face, opened the bag containing his old items used to juggle,including sticks, plates, clubs and rings and multicolored balls that looked like a rainbow. Suddenly, at the end of his performance, he died.

The next day, the priest discovered the statue of the mother and child with the child smiling as he held the golden ball in his lap
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Celebrated children's author and illustrator Tomie dePaola retells the medieval French legend of The Little Juggler in this beautiful picture book, changing the setting from France to Italy, and adding a poignant, bittersweet ending not found in the original. Orphaned Giovanni has but one skill in
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this tale: that os juggling. Becoming a traveling performer, he wins acclaim and juggles in front and dukes and princes. But when he grows old and can no longer perform, he finds himself ridiculed by the public, and driven away with sharp words and stones. Putting away his juggling, he heads home to his native town of Sorrento, where he seeks shelter one Christmas Eve in a monastery. Here, ashamed that he has nothing to offer the Virgin Mary and Christ Child, he makes his last performance: giving his all, his very life, in a marvelous show which leads to a miracle...

I grew up with The Clown of God, which was one of my favorite picture books as a child, and I never fail to be moved by its story of a man of talent who, growing old and finding the world a hard place, comes home to God by offering all that he has—both his performance and his life—as a gift. In the original, as I have learned, there is no death involved in this miracle, and while I am normally on the side of retelling traditional tales in their original form, here the changes made by dePaola create a truly moving story. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Tomie dePaola some years ago, when this 2018 reprint was published and I was managing a children's bookstore, and in the course of our conversation he told me that this new edition was a better representation, visually, of his original intention for the book, than the first edition from the 1970s. Apparently that first edition didn't get the colors quite right. He also told me that, of all his books, this was his favorite, something I was so delighted to learn, as it is also mine. The artwork is beautiful of course, in that vintage dePaola style, but it is the storytelling which is truly captivating, capturing the poignancy of growing old and of feeling cast aside and worthless, and the joy of discovering one has something still to give. Recommended to dePaola fans, and to picture book readers looking for miraculous stories touching on issues of aging, faith and bringing the best that one has to God. It would pair very nicely with Barbara Cooney's retelling of the original French version of the story, The Little Juggler.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

48 p.; 8.5 inches


1534414274 / 9781534414273
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