The term “social justice” calls to mind many complex topics: wealth, privilege, prejudice, opportunities, discrimination, and more. However, one item that is not often associated with discussions of social justice makes its appearance in Watch Out for Flying Kids!: the circus. In this book, circus is used as a platform for youth to look past their differences and stand together despite conflict. In both St. Louis, Missouri and Israel, two youth circus groups, Circus Harmony and Circus Galilee, are able to use these unique organizations to hoist them beyond their surroundings and into a world of multicultural harmony.
Watch Out for Flying Kids! reaches new heights in many ways, but one thing that makes this book stand out is that the author, Cynthia Levinson, follows the nine characters of her book for five years as they grow up. The kids Levinson chronicles experience various problems, ranging from athletic injuries to joining the Israel Defense Force, and Levinson is with them every step of the way. Levinson’s dedication clearly reflects the commitment of the characters themselves in achieving their goals and also joining a safe environment through their circus group.
Circuses Harmony and Galilee cross paths many times throughout Watch Out for Flying Kids, as each group makes multiple trips to visit the other. These trips provide a crossroads for acrobatic and circus talent, but more importantly, they challenge the youth circus members to reflect upon their own privileges and to be thankful for them. The five years Levinson follows these children are formative in multiple ways, and by the time the book closes, the children who were once joining their youth circus have transformed into adults forging their own paths.
Watch Out for Flying Kids! provides unique insight into the complexity of acceptance. Although the book tackles heavy items, it does so with a hopeful tone. After all, the kids in this book are light enough to fly, and they would not be able to do so without the circus’ ability to lift the heavy chains of inequality away.