The Circus Ship Island Author and History Tour has returned to port after a unique and wonderful journey. We visited 10 Maine island schools and communities: North Haven, Vinalhaven, Isle au Haut, Deer Isle Stonington, Frenchboro, Mount Desert Island, Swans’s Island, Islesford, Islesboro and Matinicus Island. Our thanks to all for the warm welcome and generous hospitality we enjoyed on each island.

Chris Van Dusen, Judith Jerome, Emma Miran and I had the privilege of experiencing the many ways in which children and communities were inspired by this tour. A typical tour day included travel to an island via mailboat, state ferry or airplane and we would arrive at the school and meet with students in various grades throughout the day. Evenings usually included a community presentation and discussion, a potluck supper or dinner with our hosts. Each day included lots of book signings. We heard songs about the Royal Tar, watched and listened as children shared their stories and presentations and enjoyed artwork such as hand-drawn circus animals pasted onto a construction paper steamship. We answered queries about circuses, legends, illustration and inspiration and enjoyed hearing a wide variety of stories about the Royal Tar. We also loved learning about what life is like for islanders, especially for island children. 

Community interest was reflected in the attendance numbers, which exceeded 450 and the number of school children we met with was around 325. A total of 656 books were distributed to island residents of all ages and personally inscribed by the author. There were fundraising efforts to help schools purchase The Circus Ship book for island children and one island community raised funds to provide enough books for 93 students in grades K-3. A very special thanks to the island librarians, teachers and historical societies whose leadership and support of this project inspired a high level of community engagement around the Royal Tar and Chris Van Dusen’s imagined story The Circus Ship. 

A heartfelt note of thanks to Judith Jerome and Chris Van Dusen who made this program sing with their talent, creativity and good humor. Special thanks to the Stonington Opera House, The Maine Humanities Council & The Maine Arts Commission, Town of Stonington and our videographer Emma Miran, whose support allowed us to document this, one-of-a-kind, project. We plan to create a DVD of our Island Author & History Tour with the footage that was taken during our travels.

Island Readers & Writers set out with a goal to bring island communities together and history alive by linking a coastal shipwreck in 1836 with a recently published children’s book, inspired by that event. We explored new territory, learned new things and made new friends. And I am confident that along the way, we sparked some imaginations, inspired a passion for reading and grew in our appreciation of the creativity and importance of stories.


Jan Coates, Executive Director

Island Readers & Writers