Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley, June, 2015. Dial Books. 304 pages. Ages 9-12.
Ten-year old Micah Tuttle has grown up listening to his grandfather's fantastic stories about a wonderful, magical circus called the "Circus Mirandus". There were stories about strongmen, fairies, fantastic creatures, and magical tastes and smells. Stories about the Amazing Amazonian Bird Woman who could not only fly, but sang like an angel, using her voice to communicate with and control her flock of magnificent birds. But what Grandfather Ephraim talked about most was The Man Who Bends Light.
But then things changed. Micah's grandfather, who has raised him since his parents died when he was very young, becomes gravely ill and is dying. Grandfather Ephraim's sister Gertrudis comes to help take care of him and Micah, but it becomes apparent that Gertrudis is not a happy person, and seems to take a particular dislike to two things: Micah and any mention of magic or the Circus Mirandus. Grandfather Ephraim sends a desperate message to The Man Who Bends Light, which Ephraim shortens to "The Lightbender," requesting a long-ago promised miracle.
Ephraim tells Micah that all his stories are true and that the Circus Mirandus is very real, and that he has requested his miracle from the Lightbender. Micah sets out to find the Circus Mirandus to plead for his grandfather's miracle, believing that he has asked The Lightbender to save him from dying. With the help of his skeptical friend Jenny, Micah actually finds the Circus and sees all the wonders his grandfather had told him about, as well as discovers a secret about his family tree.
Micah also discovers that The Lightbender does not have the power to save his grandfather, nor is that the miracle his grandfather had asked for, and has to make a leap of faith in order to ultimately fulfill Ephraim's last wish.
Circus Mirandus is a fantastical tale about love, friendship, faith, and of course, magic. It reminds me of the adult novel, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, in many ways. It has the same sense of mysticism and illusion and some of the same elements, without the romance and deadly competition. It is entertaining and has you rooting for Jenny, the protagonist's skeptical friend, to become a believer. While the ending is pretty predictable for an adult, I think most young readers will be kept guessing.
I think this book would appeal to those who aren't in a hurry to grow up, and still want to believe in a little magic. I would recommend it to those who like imaginative stories about magic and fantasy, such as fans of Roald Dahl's books, Peter Pan, fairy stories, and Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series. I think it would probably be more appealing to the younger end of the recommended age range, as most 12 year olds I know are already into darker and more dramatic dystopian or fantasy fiction.
Other Books by This Author
Circus Mirandus is Cassie Beasley's debut novel