SEARSPORT – Children’s author-illustrator Chris Van Dusen will appear from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Penobscot Marine Museum for an event highlighting the opening of its winter exhibit “The Circus Comes to Town.” 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 exhibition 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. Van Dusen elaborates on those tales, turning a tragic event into an imaginative comedy for children.

In addition to the Bex Bros. Circus, the museum exhibition includes circus memorabilia, historic photographs, and circus art by Maine artists Alan Fishman, Nancy Morgan-Barnes and the late Waldo Peirce. The exhibit will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, 29 and 30, and Jan. 7-8, 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29. Admission is free.

The museum is at 40 E. Main St. (U.S. Route 1) in Searsport. For more information, visit penobscotmarinemuseum.org or call 548-2529.