Editor's note: At the same time her teacher is talking about life under the big top, a wandering student sees it up close.
Emeline's teacher, Ms. Splinter, said the circus would be a great learning experience. Ms. Splinter should know, because Ms. Splinter knows everything.
As soon as the second grade was seated, Ms. Splinter gave them instructions on how to enjoy the circus.
"Sit up straight. No shouting. No fighting. No fidgeting. No standing on the seats. No wandering off. If you get lost, you'll spend the circus in the Lost and Found -- a dark little room with no windows. You'll miss everything.
"Now SHHHHHHHHHH! The circus is starting."
"Ahhh! The intelligent elephant. Resident of Africa and India. An African elephant has larger ears than an Indian elephant. Both are endangered. Both are enormous. The African elephant stands up to twelve feet tall. Weighs up to eight tons. With its long trunk, the elephant can reach food high above its head.
"I call your attention to the llama -- scientific name, Lama glama. A member of the camel family, native to South America. The llama can be seen climbing nimbly up mountain trails. Her favorite food is grass."
"Ha! The delightful clowns! According to the dictionary, clown comes from the Old Norse word klonne, meaning 'clumsy fellow.' Now, sit still, class, hands on laps. Let's leave the clowning to the clowns.
"Notice the stately giraffe. Tallest animal on earth. A relative of the deer. The giraffe is a vegetarian, dining on the tops of acacia and mimosa trees.
"Observe the graceful horse. Latin name, Equus. A hoofed, herbivorous mammal. Relative of the zebra and donkey. Horses travel in herds.
"Hail the clever monkey. Close relative to that other clever creature, the second grader. There are two hundred monkey varieties. Some have prehensile tails for swinging from trees. Many have highly developed hands and feet -- although they rarely form brass bands in the wild.
"That, children, is fire -- a phenomenon of combustion manifested in light, flame and heat. According to the dictionary, a fire-eater is someone who pretends to eat fire.
"My word! The mighty hippopotamus. River-dwelling fellow of tropical Africa. Distant cousin to the pig. Hippos have eyes on top of their heads so they can see while lying in the water.
"Behold the powerful strongman! He is able to lift heavy objects using his deltoids, which are the shoulder muscles, his biceps, which are the muscles on the front of the upper arm and his triceps, the muscles on the back of the upper arm.
"Consider the tiger. Member of the cat family. Nocturnal hunter in the forests of Asia. Endangered species. Tigers are carnivores with sharp front teeth for biting and chewing. They are good swimmers but poor climbers.
"Don't miss the sprightly acrobats! According to the dictionary, acrobat comes from the Greek word akrobatos, which means 'walking on tiptoe.' These are highly skilled professionals with years of training. Do not attempt these stunts yourself.
I direct your attention to the daring trapeze artist ! The trapeze is an acrobatic apparatus consisting of a short horizontal bar suspended by two parallel ropes. Pay attention ... What a splendid stunt! What an expert aerialist! What a brave little ... EMELINE!?!"
EMELINE AT THE CIRCUS by Marjorie Priceman. Copyright (c) 1999 by Marjorie Priceman. Used by permission of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House, Inc.