The Last Clown

by Colin Thompson illustrated by Penelope Gamble (Hodder Children's Books Australia 2002)

peace with ourselves-peace with each other

recommended but unavailable - maybe a copy in your local library


Clowns have forever been the circus' colourful characters who bring joy and happiness to audiences even if a word is not spoken by them. Their antics alone can bring about great laughter and relief from the seriousness of our worlds. This sensitive and heart warming story about an old clown is for all ages to enjoy and share together and it contains many peace-building elements:

  • happy endings

  • everyone winning

  •     nonviolent resolution

  • imaginative and creative

  • challenges existing stereotyping

  • faith and hope

  • peace with the environment

  • finding personal peace

  •     ..and element that supports the idea that peace is possible

We are immediately introduced to Zippo the Clown as the story begins. He delights crowds and laughter is heard everywhere. But Zippo has a more important role in the circus. He must take care of the circus children. A touch of sadness enters the story as the ageing clown must deal with tragedy. The story, though, is intrinsically one of hope.

So how does the story end???

......happily with everyone winning especially Zippo

...and tragedy is transformed as Zippo's love miraculously heals a child's wounded heart and spirit.

The happy ending in this story evolves from tragedy........but also there are many other essential peace-building elements inherent in this beautiful story.

Zippo teaches that no what happens we can seek positive outcomes.

There is always hope....and all will be well.

Critical questions to explore with children

  • What tricks did Zippo perform in the circus?
  • What other jobs did he have to do?
  • How did Zippo treat the children?
  • What happened to Max?
  • How did Zippo help Max recover from his injury?
  • How do you think Max felt after his accident?
  • Do you think Max enjoyed performing as a clown?
  • Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

  • Do you think clowns are happy or sad people?
  • What age is a good age for a clown to be performing?
  • Was it fair that Zippo had to look after the circus children?
  • Should animals perform in circuses?
  • What do you enjoy the most about circuses?
  • Would it be a hard life working in a circus?
  • What other things could Max have learnt how to do?
  • How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation February 2005

return to story list

return to noticeboard