A Tuesday Ten: The Big Top

So for this week’s ten, it’s all about the circus! There are always some circuses lurking in science fiction and fantasy stories.  Some with skilled performers with talents beyond the ordinary, some whose members are on a secret mission or keeping someone hidden.  Some hold secrets . . . others house magical creatures, and many of them contain all kinds of magic, from dark to light.


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

One of my favorite books this year.  This is the title that prompted the list so it necessarily kicks off the list!  Circus Mirandus is a mythical style circus that travels the globe.  It is only seen and heard by specially invited children–for those children it often changes their lives forever with the bit of magic they experience.  All those who work in the circus have magic of their own that they share with the children who come to their  performances.


Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan (HMH Books, c2011)

Space-traveling circuses are something of a trope.  While I can’t find many of them in middle grade fiction, I’m aware of many in science fiction cartoons.  But here’s one in book form! Trix is an orphan who’s been given the chance of a lifetime: to travel with the amazing Circus Galacticus around the galaxy with the rest of the circus folks and the enigmatic Ringmaster. But there are all sorts of secrets out there in space . . . and deadly enemies!


Maddigan’s Fantasia by Margaret Mahy (Margaret K. McElderry, c2005)

A post-apocalyptic setting where a circus is sent on a mission to obtain a new solar converter for the city of Solis.  Along the way they encounter two boys who claim they’re from a future where Maddigan’s Fantasia failed in their mission.  Now somehow they’ve got to put things right  . . .


The Circus Lunicus by Marilyn Singer (Henry Holt & Co., 2000)

Solomon Yanish has many mysteries in his life.  But many of those mysteries and secrets might just be uncovered when he discovers the Circus Lunicus, a celestial circus that just might hold the keys to  his own heritage.  But Solomon will have to unravel the mystery before the circus leaves town.


The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley (HarperCollins, 2006)

All three books in this series have something to do with circuses. Miles encounters a mysterious circus with  lost angels, creepy clowns, a brainwashing scheme and a phantom talking tiger. He becomes involved with stopping the brainwashing scheme that’s going on with the help of a young Song Angel.  The later books deal with  Miles discovering his own past and finding out the truth about his origins–and how he’s connected to the circus.


The Rope Trick by Lloyd Alexander (Puffin Books, c2002)

Lidi is a brilliant magician who is on a quest to discover the ancient secrets of the legendary rope trick.  While on her quest, she joins up with an odd group of friends and a circus.  But when one of her new friends is kidnapped by evil men who wish to use her powers for their own ends, Lidi must abandon her own quest and put all her skills to use to rescue her friend. (I admit I’m less familiar with this title than some others–it’s one of the Alexander books I still have to read!).


Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (Avon, c1962)

Admittedly, this may not technically qualify as middle grade, though I firmly think sophisticated MG readers with a strong love of horror would find this a fantastic read.  Ray Bradbury’s dark carnival that comes to town, slowly corrupting the townsfolk and luring them into the clutches of evil is a vivid and exciting tale full of good vs. evil drama and Bradbury’s gorgeous writing.


The Whisperer by Fiona McIntosh (Knopf Books for Young Readers, April 2015)

Griff is a circus worker with an unusual gift–he can hear the thoughts of others whispering through his mind.  When the unscrupulous circus master learns about his gift, Griff knows he must escape, along with several performers and their mythic animals.  When Griff crosses the path of Prince Lute, who is fleeing the murderous clutches of his uncle, both the boy’s lives will be changed dramatically–and the fate of the entire kingdom may be in their hands!


Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones (Candlewick Press, c2013)

Wild Boy has a sharp mind, a fierce temper and the body that is freakishly covered in hair.  He’s been part of the freak show in Victorian London while letting his brilliant deductive mind soar above it all.  But now there’s been a murder on the circus grounds . . . and Wolf Boy is being framed for the crime.  With the help of a young acrobat, he’s going to have to track down the true killer and prove his innocence before time runs out!


The Nine-Pound Hammer by John Claude Bemis (Bluefire, c2009)

Well okay, this is not quite a circus, but it’s cousin to the circus.   Twelve year old Ray encounters a sideshow full of remarkable individuals.  Every one of them is part of an ongoing mythical fight against the evil Gog.  Each one possesses some kind of special talent all their own . . . but can Ray ever find his own place in such a motley crew?

So there’s my ten!  What other circus stories can you name?  Comments welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

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

Posted on April 8, 2015, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Are you including YA? If so, Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond! Admittedly it’s in the gray area between fantasy and realistic fiction, but we placed it in SF for the Cybils. It’s a terrific story of a girl who is a wire walker from a famous family, a curse, and a longstanding rivalry between circus families. It was one of my favorites last year.

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