Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley (Dial, June 2015)  has been getting tons of love from readers and reviewers, and is showing up on lots of Newbery prediction lists.....and indeed, it's a tremendously imaginative and moving book.

10-year-old Micah Tuttle's life has been pretty much shattered--his beloved Grandpa Ephraim is dying, and his utterly unsympathetic Great Aunt Gertie has moved in, bossing and nagging and keeping him away from his grandpa.  Micah misses his grandpa something fierce; the two were very close, and Micah loved hearing all Grandpa Ephraim’s wild stories of the magical Circus Mirandus...never dreaming that the circus really was real.

But it was real, and Grandpa Ephraim was promised a miracle by the circus' mysterious Lightbender.  And now he wants his miracle...

When Micah learns about his, he figures his grandpa wants to be all better again, and so he sets off to find the Lightbender and call in the miracle.  With the help of a new friend, smart but very real-world oriented Jenny, he sets off to the Circus....

It is a place full of magic, real genuine beautiful magic.  A place where Micah feels at home.  Jenny, however, doesn't--she almost can't get into the circus at all, because she has such a hard time acknowledging that magic is real.  Interspersed with Micah and Jenny's story in the present are flashbacks to Grandpa Ephraim's own discovery of the circus and its magic, and how his life was changed by it.

And in the end, there is a miracle, although it's not what Micah had expected.  And there really is magic, as long as you can believe in it.

So on the plus side, this is a circus story for those who think they don't like circuses--there aren't any scary clowns, and it is really a magical enchanting place with flashes of humor.  The development of the  friendship between Micah and Jenny is a pleasure to watch, and Micah's love for his grandpa gives tender emotional weight to the story.

That beings said, I am really not at all sure if this book, enchanting and moving though it might be to grown-ups who want to believe in magic, and for whom the sadness of loss may well have been a lived thing already, has all that much kid appeal....perhaps there are lots of kids for whom running off to a magical circus will be wonderful, but I just couldn't help but feel a tad that this is one grown-ups will like more....I could well be wrong though! 

My one specific complaint is that  Aunt Gertie is perhaps too much of a negative caricature of the Bad Grownup who Lacks Sensitivity; I could have used more nuance in her character.

So I wouldn't be surprised to see it get a sticker in January, but it's not tops on the list of books I'm going to press on my own fantasy reading 12 year old, who likes magic more firmly separated from the quotidian world....

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. I keep seeing this book around, but didn't know much about it. While reading your review, I thought about handling it over to one of my tweens to read, but I'll probably read it first now.

  2. Aunt Gertie was definitely a bit much. She got a little nuance toward the end, but too little, too late.

  3. Yes!! Exactly! I could not give away the ARC to students! It was too sad for my taste. Running away to join the circus has some appeal, but I'll pass on joining this particular circus.

  4. It was on my pick list for Good Enough Mother.

  5. Huh, interesting! Is there any particular reason you think it would be better for adults than for kids? It sounds like it would be awesome for THIS adult, as I am named Jenny and I love books about circuses. :p

  6. Mainly I thought this because it's my feeling that young voracious readers of fantasy find it somewhat patronizing to be told to keep believing in magic....and because the sadness and nostalgia for youth seemed more grown-up than child mind....


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