Guest post & giveaway– Lisa Robinson runs away to the circus!

Hi, friends. I love when a real-life passion fuels a story. Any book that results from that is truly a labor of love and feels like so much more than “just” a story. It feels like a part of us, pulled into the light from way down deep. Such is the case with Lisa Robinson’s debut book. When I heard what sparked this one, I jumped at the chance to have her come and share it with all of you. Take it away, Lisa!

I’m honored to be hosted on Picture Book Builders, a blog I have long followed . . .
Some of the best stories grow out of our obsessions and passions. The fire of our enthusiasm helps us persist with the arduous work of writing and revising a story . . . and then taking it to publication (another complicated, obstacle-filled endeavor). Jill invited me to tell the story of how my passion for circus led to my book, Madame Saqui, Revolutionary Ropedancer (Schwartz & Wade), gorgeously illustrated by Rebecca Green.

In 2010, I took my family to see Circus Smirkus, an animal-free, acrobatic youth circus troupe that tours New England during the summer. We were so awed by their artistry and skill that we left with a new passion—circus arts—and the wish to run away with the circus! Since running away with the circus wasn’t a realistic option, we immediately sought out our local circus studio, Moody Street Circus, as well as another aerial arts instructor, Molly Baechtold, and embarked upon our circus journey.

My daughters and I practice circus skills three to four times a week (pre-pandemic)—from juggling to tight wire to aerial arts. Our favorite activity is aerial silks where we can dangle and flip and twirl and soar.

During the summer, I enviously send my daughters to Circus Smirkus camp where they spend several weeks doing circus arts all day long. (3. insert circus tent photo here) Who doesn’t want to go to circus camp?!

Even now, during the pandemic, we try to keep up our skills by hanging a silk from our swingset (not high enough to do many tricks, but we still get to play), walking the tight wire in our backyard, and staying fit with Zoom conditioning classes with our circus instructors.

How did this lead me to Madame Saqui? Eager to learn some circus history, I read a book, The Ordinary Acrobat. In it, I read a brief story about a Marguerite-Antoinette Saqui, a woman who wirewalked during the French Revolutionary era. I already knew about Philippe Petit, the man who walked between the Twin Towers, and Charles Blondin, the acrobat who wirewalked over Niagara Falls. But here was an unknown woman whose daring feats came well before these two. I wanted to learn more.

As I researched her life, I discovered that she started wirewalking as a child.

She went on to walk between the towers of Notre Dame and over the Seine.

She wore scandalous costumes that revealed her ankles, and dared to own and manage a circus arts theater, something not done by women at that time. She was also bold enough to speak sharp words of protest to Napoleon when he ordered her not to wirewalk during a storm. This was clearly a story that needed to be told.

In addition to Saqui’s colorful and unconventional life, what also resonated with me was her determination to follow her dream. Although I love my career as a psychiatrist, I only recently gave myself permission to pursue a long submerged dream: to write and bring a book into the world. Saqui’s tenacity encouraged me to keep going in spite of what felt like a steep learning curve (this was my first nonfiction project) and a lot of rejection.

Madame Saqui also inspired me to learn to wirewalk well enough to perform a wirewalking act in bookstores dressed as Madame Saqui . . .

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic interfered with that plan. However, when we are able to gather in bookstores again, I plan to take my show on the road!

You can watch a sample of the show I planned for bookstores on YouTube. For some fun book-related activities, check out Curious City’s site for a cutout Madame Saqui craft as well as a DIY wirewalking experience in your own living room. You can learn more about me and my books at my website.

For more of Rebecca Green’s work, check out her website, here.

I hope Madame Saqui’s story inspires you to follow your passion, tell a good story, and perhaps even wirewalk, too!


Jill, here. Lisa has agreed to do a book giveaway! For a chance to win a signed copy of Madame Saqui, Revolutionary Rope Dancer, just leave a comment below. Thanks, Lisa! (U.S. residents only, please.) Meanwhile, the winners of Maria Gianferrari’s fab books, Whoo-Ku AND Play Like an Animal, in last month’s post giveaway, are Jennifer Merrifield and Kathy Halsey! Congrats, ladies!

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum is the author of more than 50 children's books. Recent picture books include JACK KNIGHT'S BRAVE FLIGHT (a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection), HOW TO GROW A DINOSAUR, WHERE'D MY JO GO?, FROG BOOTS, and WE LOVE BABIES! She is also the author of a graphic early reader series, Thunder & Cluck (another Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection). In addition, she has authored two dozen nonfiction series books for Nat Geo Kids, including several titles in the immensely popular LITTLE KIDS BIG BOOK OF–– series. Next year brings her first humorous informational fiction pb, STINKBIRD HAS A SUPERPOWER. Lots more books are on the way! For more information about Jill and her books, visit her website at


  1. Can’t wait to see your book! How interesting to learn that Madam Saqui came before Petit and Blondin!

  2. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    I love this. “This was clearly a story that needed to be told.” Indeed! I’m so glad you did! Congrats on this book, I can’t wait to get hold of a copy of it!

  3. This is an amazing story! I hope just holding this book will help me be more lithe. I’m so inflexible, I couldn’t touch my toes if someone put a gun to my head.

  4. Angie Quantrell

    I love this story! I can’t wait to read more about this amazing woman! Also, LOVE you doing the same types of things. Wonderful! Congratulations!

  5. Cindy Schumerth

    Looks like when we get past these hard times kids will be in for a real treat! A great book and a great act!

  6. What a great idea for a book, and the illustrations look great! Would love to read this with my twins, think they will want to join the circus too!

  7. It never ceases to amaze me how writers can find special nuggets of history to write about. What a great story.

  8. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed learning about Madame Saqui!

  9. Such a great story for all the world to see! Congrats!

  10. It’s such a beautiful story, and as a friend a critique partner of Lisa’s, I was lucky to have seen this story in its early stages, and watch it bloom into its current form! Hearty congrats to you, Lisa, and to Rebecca whose art made it shine even brighter!

  11. Congrats, Lisa and Rebecca! Looks like a fun book.

  12. Danielle Hammelef

    Wow to this book and the athletic skills of Lisa! I can’t wait to read this fun book. I’ve never had the courage to try circus arts.

  13. Congratulations! Your book sounds like a ringer! I wrote a book about circus, too, hosted Rob Merman when he was on tour, and also learned some circus tricks, though not nearly so well as you.

  14. Can’t wait to read this book! Sounds wonderful! Congrats!!

  15. Congratulations, Lisa! What amazing stories–Madame Saqui’s and yours!

  16. This is so interesting. Congratulations!

  17. Loreli Stochaj

    You learned how to wire walk. You are brave.

  18. Pamela Harrison

    What a fascinating subject for a biography! I am so impressed with your success in learning to wirewalk! Performing during your author visits will be amazing. Everyone will love it. Congratulations on your biography, Lisa! Great interview!

  19. Thank you both for this great interview! Congratulations, Lisa, for following your passion, no matter where it took you. Wishing you all the best!

  20. Annette Pierce

    What a unique biography! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of this book for our library!

  21. Congratulations Lisa and Rebecca! I’m excited to read about Madam Saqui! Loved your tight rope walk, too, Lisa!

  22. So. Cool. I love the tenacity it took to follow your passion in the circus arts and to write this book. I look forward to reading your words. : )

  23. So much fun! I can’t wait to see the book.

  24. Meredith Fraser

    A story worth telling. Can’t wait to read it.

  25. I love all of the art! My girls would love this book!
    digicats {at} sbcglobal {dot} net

  26. Ashley Bankhead

    This looks like such a great book! I really want to read it!

  27. Cynthia Wyszynski

    What an exciting idea! I can’t wait to read it!

  28. Congratulations I am so proud for you and glad you are following your dream. I am a new author too. I have been following my dream for many years teaching writing workshop in my 2nd grade classroom and writing stories for them as well. Now I’m retired after 39 years and I am writing children’s books and now learning to write picture books too. So glad I got to see you on your tightrope. It reminds me when I was a child about 8 years old my cousin and I went to see the Greatest Show on Earth. When we returned home we went into the basement, found clothesline rope, tide it between two large post and above were pipes in the ceiling to hold on to. So the circus began until my aunt found out. No more, but the memory was great.

  29. I’m late to the party but WOW! Congratulations!!! Love the pictures and your story behind the story of Marguerite too. Makes me want to find a circus camp!!!

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