Review: Circus Mirandus

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley (Dial Books for Young Readers, Expected Publication June 2015)

There I am with a pile of books to read.  Some with flashy covers or fancy titles.  Some that I’ve heard lots of buzz about or are by authors I know and love already.  It’s a big pile and I usually have five or six books in my pack for the subway ride home.  I pull one out at random. It’s not one of the flashier titles or one where I know the author or story at all.  All I can tell offhand is that it is about a circus.  So I open the cover and start reading.  Sometimes, just sometimes you know you’ve hit on a great read just within the first two pages.  It isn’t often, mind you, and it isn’t a guarantee that the rest of the book will deliver on the promise, but it’s a glorious thing when you read those first two pages of a story and shiver and settle in to your seat thinking ‘oh, this is going to be fun to read.’

Circus Mirandus is about a magical circus.  Circuses by their very nature have some magic and mystery about them . . . something that goes beyond the edges of the reality we know.  But in this case, the circus is truly magical, hidden from the sight of most people and only open to a special array of invited children.  It’s also about Micah and his grandfather.  Micah’s grandfather is dying–something unacceptable to Micah who has grown up on his grandad’s stories of the magical circus that he encountered as a boy.   Micah can’t stand the thought of losing his grandfather, and believes that the circus may hold the key to curing him.   You see, his grandfather has told him that one of the members of the circus, the powerful Lightbender, owes him a miracle.  Micah’s determined to track down this circus, and see that his grandfather gets that miracle.

I read breathlessly (though only figuratively) through this book, enjoying the ride through, relishing the adventure and story and closing the book with satisfaction when done.   This, folks is a true joy to read.  That it’s a debut novel makes me a little relieved (I guiltily went checking wondering how I could have missed this author in the past–but it turns out, this is her first book!).  Cassie Beasley spins a story that will leave it’s readers hopeful that they too will be summoned to the Circus Mirandus with the pipe and drum.

Micah is the kind of boy that I immediately sympathized with.  He’s losing his grandfather day by day and his great aunt Gerty has come to live with them, turning his life even more miserable.  I lost my father to cancer this past year . . . and I’m not sure it gets all that much easier to go through as an adult.  But Micah Tuttle is the kind of boy who can believe in magic.  After all, the Tuttle family has a knot-tying magic all it’s own.  It’s not big or flashy, but there’s still something special about it.  But with great-aunt Gertie getting in the way of Micah even spending time with his grandfather, it’s fortunate that Micah has a friend from school–a very down-to-earth girl named Jenny who always has Micah’s back, even when she isn’t ready to believe in magic.   Ephraim, Micah’s grandfather is a wise man with a great deal of love for his grandson.  We get to see flashbacks to when Ephraim was a boy visiting the circus, and how the circus changed him significantly.  And then there’s the Man Who Bends Light, (aka The Lightbender) who just embodies the idea of magic and miracles.

There’s tragedy and pain, illusion and reality, kindness and cruelty and amazing hope.  It’s all bound up in a story that is delivered in a firm and confident hand, tightly woven, briskly told, beautifully realized.  Storytelling as skillfully done as a Tuttle knot.  I expect this will capture the imaginations of Middle Grade readers in much the way it caught mine.

Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher:Dial Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: Expected Publication June 2015

ISBN13:    9780525428435

Recommended for grades 4 and up.

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on April 2, 2015, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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