Friday Fiction: Touch of the Clown

Touch of the Clown cover
Touch of the Clown

Submitter: This book is on the shelves at [a public library], recently discovered during inventory. All the staff who looked at it immediately thought “pedophile.” Awful cover art added to the general ugh quality of the book.

Holly:Good for your staff for doing inventory!  Mary and I are big promoters of inventory.  As for this book, the WorldCat description says, “Barbara takes a clown workshop and finds some friends who help her get through problems at home.”  It’s juvenile fiction, and lots of public libraries own copies.  I know a lot of people (Mary included) have clown phobias and think clowns are weird and creepy.  The juggling guy on the cover isn’t even painted up like a clown, though, so he’s not too creepy.  Maybe he needs to go back to clown school, or maybe he hasn’t graduated yet.  He looks like a teenager to me, too, so I don’t know about the pedophile bit…but I do know that the very mention of clowns puts people like Mary into a cold sweat.  I also think that the artwork is very 80s.  (Submitter said 2001, but WorldCat shows 1999 for this title.)  The cover is not really selling the story that WorldCat describes, but other than that it’s not so bad.  Do weed if it has become a shelf-sitter, though.


  1. I agree with Eric: That “title” is a little too creative. And the problem people are having is with the title of the book, not the illustration. It sounds hilariously inappropriate. And I would like to note, not all clowns are painted.

  2. When I saw this in thumbnail form I thought this would be a HQ romance about a single mom and the clown who loves her. When I saw the larger image I thought “bring on the pedophile jokes.”

    At least there’s not boys on the cover, than people would be making John Wayne Gacy comments.

    Serial killers aside, I will never understand fear/hatred of clowns and mimes. They’re just entertainers like any actor or singer. They work hard on their craft. I mean, you wouldn’t be afraid of Morgan Freeman, right? Or David Bowie? Then why be afraid of a clown?

  3. @ Jamie: I think the whole scary clown thing got started with Stephen King’s novel “It.” Once you’ve encountered Pennywise….*shudder*

  4. The title is so creepy sounding, but then to have it written like that on the cover seems like really poor design. The artwork is OK, but definitely looks older.

  5. That’s some amazingly bad title design. Touch Huser of the Glen Clown? Touch Glen of the Huser Clown? Just awful.

  6. Ok, I misread the title too. I agree that the title when read correctly is a bit creepy. The artwork is so 80s like people say. Second reaction: Is it intentionally “retro”? First reaction: Is it a Christian or Mormon book? Try typically have outdated artwork and titles that are naively inappropriate!
    BTW glen is garlic for a valley. Glenn is tr proper noun 🙂

  7. I saw it as “Touch Glen of the Huser Clown”. Why did they think jumbling the title and author like that was a good idea?

  8. @Ms. Scribbles – Nah, I’m pretty sure Coulrophobia has been around for a lot longer. Been exposed to both It and John Wayne Gacy’s story, still not afraid of clowns. Still don’t understand it. People can go on and on about creepy makeup or what have you. Still doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a singer and know how hard people work to entertain others.

  9. I’ve never liked clowns even before “It” (Ms. Scribbles); they have always seemed creepy to me. I didn’t want them to touch as a child and I still don’t want them to touch me.

  10. @Jami — phobias are by their very nature non-logical. Some are not even remotely logical. The classic example lately is that poor woman who went on Maury Povich (IIRC) to discuss her fear of cottonballs. You can appreciate the performing arts in general, I’m sure, and still have coulrophobia.

    @tom — Now if this book were called “The Touch of David Bowie,” I’d be in a bidding war for it….

  11. I have this book at my house (don’t know where it came from, possibly used to belong to my sister) but have never read it. At any rate, I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who finds the title icky and inappropriate.

  12. It is unfortunate that the cover is so unappealing as the book is actually quite good. Glen Huser won a Governor General’s Literary Award for another one of his books “Stitches”.
    If you are interested, here is a review of Touch of the Clown:
    From Library Journal
    Grade 5-9-This poignant novel deals with child abuse and neglect as well as how individuals deal with death. Following the death of their mother several years earlier, Barbara Stanwyck Kobleimer and her six-year-old sister Livvy live with their father and grandmother, both alcoholics. Livvy has only one kidney and Barbara, 13, has taken over the mothering role for her. She also does most of the cooking, shopping, and housework. When Livvy runs in front of a bicycle, Barbara finds a friend and ally in the man who was riding it. Cosmo teaches at a clown workshop for teenagers and invites Barbara to take part. Unable to get her father’s permission, she forges his name on the form. There, she makes other friends including Nathan, whose home life is as bad as hers. She also discovers that Cosmo has AIDS. Trouble ensues when Mr. Kobleimer discovers Barbara’s subterfuge and beats her up. She flees to Cosmo who, despite being gravely ill, gets her the help she needs before he dies. The resiliency of the human spirit is exemplified in Barbara’s strong character. Her ability to rise above the situation and discover good in others makes her admirable rather than someone to pity. The story mixes a strong plot and likable characters in such a way as to appeal to adolescent readers.

  13. As a library programer and a professional clown I feel sad for those who have phobias about clowns and have even seen parents inadvertently cause them. I perform at a nursery school every year and usually hear a child exclaim in the hall when their parents pick them up, “Mom/Dad! I’m not afraid of clowns anymore!” Clowns are after all people too. We all know cover artists don’t always read the book much less understand the makeup skills in drawing proper clowns. Also the clown code of ethics that is followed by most professional clowns ( is not even heard of by most people. What offends me most is the constant fascination and misuse of the word pedophile against all men these days.

  14. I will freely admit I had never heard of the Clown code of ethics, but am not surprized to hear you have one. Good work!

  15. Gwyn’s very much right. I know, logically, that clowns are just people and nothing to be scared of, but they still creep me out inadvertently — although I’m actually far less afraid of real-life clowns than I am clown dolls or pictures.

    It’s okay if you don’t understand it; neither do I XD

  16. I totally understand Christy. Most people who are not clowns and that make ceramics or dolls do not know the makeup skills and requirements of the clown types and as a result come up with some really garish faces. I have one friend who became scared of clowns due to a painting of a clown face on velvet in his grandmother’s house. I’m just scared of any paintings on velvet! lol Elvis included!

  17. There’s a theory that people have a fear of clowns because they’re in the “uncanny valley”. They look not-quite-human.

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