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The Clown of God

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  2,227 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
In this retelling of the old French legend, a juggler offers to the Christ Child the only Christmas gift he has. “The full-color pictures with subtle tonal modulations are an integral part of the design of the lumious pages full of movement and vitality. The Italianate aspects of the setting are beautifully realized.”--The Horn Book
Paperback, 48 pages
Published September 6th 1978 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1978)
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“The Clown of God” is an Italian folktale retold by Tomie dePaola, famous for his “Strega Nona” books. This book is about how a young boy named Giovanni becomes a famous juggler all around Italy while learning the true meaning of spreading happiness around the world. “The Clown of God” is a truly touching story that children will love for many years.

Tomie dePaola has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this book about the true meaning of spreading happiness. Tomie dePaola’s wr
Sep 27, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kathryn by: Ronyell
A beautiful, slightly bittersweet traditional story from Italy, lovingly retold by Tomie dePaola. Giovanni is a young boy with a penchant for juggling. He grows up and shares his wonderful gift with others all around the country. But, years pass and times get tough, and soon he is not so steady with juggling and audiences are not so kind. Reduced to beggar status, Giovanni enters a church one night--only to be awoken by glorious singing. It is the celebration of the birth of the Christ child! ...more
Sep 09, 2008 booklady rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to booklady by: Krista the Krazy Kataloguer Hartman
"The Juggler of Notre Dame" is my daughters favorite Christmas movie so I was really excited to read this book and discover that it's the children's version of the French legend told by Anatole France. In The Clown of God an aging juggler thinks he has nothing left to offer God. The admiring crowds and delighted audiences have been replaced with homelessness and hunger. Although this was a story told and retold by storytellers of the Middle Ages, it's as ...more
Gwyneth Evans
Nov 28, 2013 Gwyneth Evans rated it it was amazing
This children's book is poignant, solemn and inspiring. The beautiful, colourful pages will captivate your focus and imagination. The writing is minimal and easy to understand. The religious reference does not detract from the story or theme. The story is profound and may require light discussion after a reading. Such conversation can bring added insight into the theme of a life calling, craft and what it means to give a gift of yourself.

This book is very much an example of such a gift.

A good c
Mar 02, 2012 Heather rated it liked it
Shelves: own
33 months - Picked this up at the thrift store for 50 cents. Certainly worth the price and O keeps requesting to read it. We have not delved into God and religion at all with her so her interest is either enjoyment of the story or she is trying to process the story's meaning. It is not unusual for her to request a book over and over until she understands a certain aspect of it... either something to do with the story or the usage of a new word which will often come up in conversation (used ...more
Lauren Burrell
Dec 21, 2013 Lauren Burrell rated it really liked it
Shelves: traditional
I loved this book when i was younger and reading it again as an adult i still do. This is the story of a juggler Giovianni who becomes a famous juggler all through out Italy. He accumulates a rainbow colored set of juggling balls with one gold one. Through out the story his juggling becomes less popular and he has to stop juggling and begin begging for food. He goes to the church at christmas and does a juggling act for Jesus because he has noting else given him. When he gets to the golden ball ...more
Printable Tire
This is the only book I've had the time to read this month! And it took me five minutes to read as I sat in the library!

Anyway. There is a beautiful color palate used in the illustrations, very in keeping with my idea of the time-period it takes place, with a mixture of messier/moodier water colors blended into the pages. The writing is simple and the repetition in the prose helps propel the story. The protagonist goes from young to old very quickly but such is life.
Jul 18, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jacob, ellie, mom
Ellie read to us. Jacob loves this book. It reminds me of the story in the bible where a women puts in 2 coins and Jesus says she has given more than all the rest. The disciples question him saying that others have put in way more than this women. Jesus answered saying she has given everything she has to God...krb 7/18/16
Jay Little
May 06, 2012 Jay Little rated it it was amazing
Tomie dePaola is my favorite children's book author and artist, and Clown of God is one of his most amazing achievements. The author has several books with religious themes without being religion books. The story is heartwarming, and yet still brings me to tears all these years later, after so many reads.
Bonnie Pohlig
Love this book! Dr. Brad Wilcox read me this book and made the most profound Spiritual connection. We need to listen to the Spirit to know which "balls" to juggle and which ones we can drop. He really does smile when we are juggling, because that means we are learning.
Dec 08, 2016 Congetta rated it it was amazing
This book affected us emotionally especially my 10yo son. We decided to buy our own copy. We like to read Christmas books every year during the Advent season.
Shanna Gonzalez
Aug 15, 2009 Shanna Gonzalez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-04-08
The Clown of God is beautifully-illustrated, well-written retelling of a French legend. The orphan Giovanni achieves great heights of fame through a juggling act that culminates in a rainbow of colored balls, with a golden ball representing "the sun in the heavens." At the height of his fame, some monks tell him his juggling "sings of the glory of God," to which he laughingly retorts, "I only juggle to make people laugh and applaud." As the years pass, Giovanni's popularity wanes until he is ...more
Mar 16, 2015 Colleen rated it liked it
Shelves: lis-510, traditional
The Clown of God is an illustrated retelling of a French legend done in Tomie dePaola's typical art style, and even though his art style isn't, personally, my favorite, he has written and illustrated many well-known works, so it is probable that I am in the minority here, as far as opinions on his art style go.

The title of this work is slightly misleading, and in fact the confusing phrase was why I initially chose this book to read; I had never heard of such a thing, and wanted to know more (wa
Jan 21, 2010 Josiah rated it it was ok
Tomie dePaola's version of this classic tale differs substantially from the one written by Barbara Cooney. One big change, among many, is that the action is all set in Italy, whereas Barbara Cooney's story (and virtually all others, if my understanding is correct) takes place in France.

Tomie dePaola brings excellent sensitivity to this heartwarming and heartbreaking fable about a virile young Juggler named Giovanni who ascends to be the unquestionably finest artisan in his chosen skill, and re
Hannah Rich
Mar 11, 2014 Hannah Rich rated it liked it
Shelves: traditional-book
Tomie dePaola does a wonderful job writing and illustrating, The Clown of God. Little Giovanni was poor and had no home, but was talented in one area; he could juggle. As a child, Giovanni's juggling amazed many and he would travel around showing off his talents while his face was painted like a clown. When he became older many towns people did not find his juggling as amusing as they did when he was young, so he returned to living in poverty. He took shelter in the church on Christmas Eve, and ...more
Wayne S.
Jul 17, 2016 Wayne S. rated it it was amazing
Many, many years ago in Sorrento, Italy, there was a small boy named Giovanni. He had no mother or father, wore rags, begged for his food, and slept in doorways. But he could juggle and every day juggled fruit and vegetables at Signor Baptista’s produce stall for a cup of hot soup in return for drawing customers. He was so good that he eventually joined a group of traveling players, and when he became famous he set out on his own, traveled up and down Italy, and even performed for dukes and ...more
Oct 15, 2009 Janna added it
Shelves: pbgs-choice-3
This realistic folktale has the ability to capture the attention of children because it is about a boy who could juggle and became famous for it. Many children probably have the same dream of having a special talent and becoming famous with it. I related to this book because when I was young I wanted to be a clown and I learned how to juggle. The plot is very easy to follow, because it starts when Giovanni is young and it ends when he dies. From my interpretation, a theme from this book is that ...more
Jonathan Bodine
Oct 27, 2015 Jonathan Bodine rated it liked it
Shelves: traditional
I have never heard the story of the Clown of God before. A child escapes rags by juggling for a circus. He goes to juggle for all of Italy. As an old man he becomes discouraged in his juggling and finds how his juggling has the power of God within it. The ending brings the events of the book together well. This book is definitely classic. It would be hard to find kids these days relating to this book but that is not the main point. It gives kids some understanding of other cultures today and the ...more
Jun 21, 2015 Patti rated it really liked it
What an excellent story! I had never heard of it until it was referenced in “The Continuous Conversion” by Brad Wilcox.

This wonderful story stands by itself, but I can see it being used to teach several lessons to children, teens and adults: using our talents; serving others; serving God; and as Brad Wilcox taught, juggling our busy lives. Of course that last one will only make sense to LDS members after reading Wilcox’s book. That’s not a requirement. Anyone who reads this old French legend wi
Jan 03, 2011 ABC rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2011 Sheri rated it liked it
This is written by Tomie DePaola and along the lines of his other books]
about old world characters. This one is probably set in Spain or Italy.
Liked the illustrations and the colors. Has a religious theme so don't know
if you would read in a school setting. But to read to children at home or
outside of the school setting would be preferable. Stumbled upon it while
researching new books, this was misplaced on the current best sellers shelf
at the library.
Dec 12, 2008 Stacie rated it it was amazing
Tomie dePaola was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid and he still doesn't disappoint now that I am all grown up and have become a cynical adult. :)

For me his magic as a storyteller isn't just in the writing, but the illustrations...they are like works of art to me.

Sunshine wasn't too jazzed about reading it, but I sat down and read it anyway and after it was over she said, "that was a wonderful story. Read it again."
May 19, 2009 Laura rated it liked it
This was an interesting tale that I had never heard before. I liked Tomie's drawings, they were lovely, as usual. However, I feel that I must warn future readers, this book has elements of saddness and sorrow. While the ending was happy, it was still a little bleak. I would recommend though.

*Taken from my book reviews blog:
Cindi P.
Aug 29, 2013 Cindi P. rated it really liked it
With a glimpse back to the early Renaissance, this story tells of a beggar who made something special of his life while subtly telling about village life. The illustrations enhanced the story and identified different aspects of culture during that time. The main character transforms throughout as he encounters different challenges. This book could be used to launch classroom discussions on individual gifts, contributing, and this period in history.
Dec 19, 2012 Danielle rated it it was amazing
The Clown of God is a great children's book! We used it with our school curriculum and it was a loved book. It takes place during the Renaissance Italy, so it sets a good launch point for learning about life in that era and location. It is also a great book for those that feel that an education centered around God is important. There is a recurring theme in the book about giving glory to God and what that can look like. It is a wonderful book and I would recommend reading it yourself! :)
May 24, 2012 Kitty rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
3 stars for some ultimate confusion on my part towards the end.

Do I laugh at the scowling Jesus baby? Feel weird for laughing at a scowling Jesus baby? Not laugh at a scowling Jesus baby? Scowl along with the Jesus baby? Believe in the divine intervention power of juggling? Feel pity for the old man? UUUUGGHH!! Catholic limbo!
Mar 14, 2016 Audryaunna rated it it was amazing
Awesome!! Is how I would sum up this book. This a great Italian folktale by Tomie dePaola. Giovanni becomes a famous juggler all around Italy while he is learning the true meaning of happiness. He spreads his God-given talent all over the wrold. This a great story. The pictures are just amazing. The story can be loved by anyone for a very long time. This book brought tears to my eyes.

Scott Hayden
Oct 17, 2015 Scott Hayden rated it it was amazing
Traipse through Italian countryside following orphan Giovanni in Tomie dePaola's colorful retelling of this touching legend. What more could a free and easy juggler want than fame? What to do when hard times and one clumsy act set in?
Shuntia Williams
Apr 08, 2011 Shuntia Williams rated it liked it
Shelves: legends
This is a good story to read to children when learning about legends. The book is about a juggler who becomes famous and then broke again. After he juggles for a statue of Jesus he dies. The statue which was previously stern was smiling with a ball that the juggler juggled.
Jul 07, 2009 Joanna rated it it was amazing
one of the most incredible children's books. I was not raised christian, but rather instilled with very spiritual values, of several different religions, so this book is not just for jesus-lovers.
it always makes me cry.
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Tomie dePaola (pronounced Tommy da-POW-la) is best known for his books for children.
He's been published for 40 years and has written and/or illustrated over 200 books, including 26 Fairmount Avenue, Strega Nona, and Meet the Barkers.
Tomie dePaola and his work have been recognized with the Caldecott Honor Award, the Newbery Honor Award and the New Hampshire Governor's Arts Award of Living Treasure.
More about Tomie dePaola...

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