By Cassie Beasley
Available now from Dial (Penguin Random House)
I suspected I would like CIRCUS MIRANDUS from the moment I picked it up. Magical circuses are hard to resist, after all. And it's such a beautiful book - the stepback image of two children inside a flying woman and a parrot and a white tiger is lovely. I was delighted that it is an accurate promise of what was inside. The child inside me adores an accurate cover.
Micah Tuttle is in fifth grade and still believes in magic. His grandfather, who he lives with, has told him about the Circus Mirandus his whole life, and how the Lightbender owes him a miracle. Micah knows just want his Grandpa Ephraim should ask for: a cure for the disease that's killing him. He believes that is why his Grandpa Ephraim has finally sent a message to the Lightbender. But the circus will be everything Micah imagined while still being quite different.
Debut author Cassie Beasley exerts an admirable amount of control over her story. It weaves back and forth, telling of Grandpa Ephraim's encounter with the Circus Mirandus and the story of the Amazonian Bird Woman while also moving along the present day story of Micah and his best friend Jenny Mendoza. There are many stories layered on top of each other, but I never felt lost.
The magic did falter for me at one point. I realized that the realistic and the fantastical villains were both women. At the same time I was realizing that, Jenny was embarrassing herself with her refusal to believe in magic. Now, Aunt Gertrudis did become more understandable to me as more of her story was revealed, but both she and the Amazonian Bird Woman were rather stock villains in an otherwise wondrous story. Jenny, however, is a great character. I liked how her and Micah's friendship developed, and that they both taught each other to see a new perspective.
CIRCUS MIRANDUS is yet another story about believing in magic, being good to others, and taking a chance for what you believe in. And it works, because it does it all beautifully. Come and be entertained by a magical circus like no other. Beasley's debut is a middle grade story that all ages can enjoy.