Popular children’s author/illustrator Chris Van Dusen of Camden will appear at Penobscot Marine Museum’s Main Street Gallery for an event highlighting the opening of its winter exhibit “The Circus Comes to Town.” On Saturday, Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Van Dusen will read and sign his book “The Circus Ship”; and the museum will engage children with circus-themed craft activities and refreshments. The event is free.

The book reading and signing will be adjacent to “The Circus Comes to Town,” an exhibit of circus art, photography and a collection of several hundred miniature circus figures known as “The Bex Bros. Circus.” The display features scale model big top and sideshow tents, performers, animals, circus vehicles, attendees and workers in an extravagant display model of a traditional American circus.

“The Circus Ship” is based loosely on a true event. In 1836, a steamship carrying a circus caught fire and sank in Penobscot Bay, giving rise to legends about the survival of the circus animals on Vinalhaven. In “The Circus Ship,” Van Dusen elaborates on those tall tales, turning a tragic event into a delightful and imaginative comedy for children.

After reading “The Circus Ship,” Van Dusen will remain to speak with children and to sign books purchased as holiday gifts. A Maine native, Van Dusen is also known for his Mister Magee books and for his illustrations of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series.

In addition to “The Bex Bros. Circus,” the museum exhibit “The Circus Comes to Town” includes circus memorabilia, historic photographs and circus art by Maine artists Alan Fishman, Nancy Morgan-Barnes and the late Waldo Peirce. The shows are available for viewing in the museum’s Main Street Gallery from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 10 and 11; 17 and 18; Jan. 7 and 8; 14 and 15; 21 and 22; and 28 and 29. They also will be open Thursday and Friday, Dec. 29 and 30.

Maine’s first maritime museum, Penobscot Marine Museum is home to outstanding collections of marine art and artifacts, small craft, ship models and historic photography. The admission center is at 40 E. Main St./Route 1. More information is at PenobscotMarineMuseum.org or call 548-2529.

VillageSoup Knox/Waldo Arts Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401, ext. 251 or dernest@villagesoup.com.