Wednesday, July 1, 2015

MG Fantasy: Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

23281919Published: June 2nd 2015 by Dial Books (first published January 1st 2015)  
Genres: MG Fantasy
Pages: 304 pages
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Review copy provided by publisher following a blog tour hosted by Word Spelunking

 Micah is very close to his grandfather Ephraim and loves to listen to him tell stories about a magical place called Circus Mirandus.   He recalls a particular story about a man from the circus who can bend light and is called Lightbender.  Lightbender also owes a debt to his grandfather, because grandfather Ephraim was the one who taught him how to tie a special knot.  In return, Lightbender granted him a miracle, which he could collect whenever he wanted.  When Micah's grandfather becomes ill,  Micah makes plans to visit the circus and collect on that debt.  He believes that the Lightbender's miracle can heal his grandfather.  But, Micah's great aunt Gertrudis moves in, and she thinks that grandfather's stories are "silliness." She is constantly getting in the way of him visiting with his grandfather to get more information about the circus.  Micah turns to Jenny, a girl from school that he is supposed to be helping on their school project for help. Between the two of them, they hope to find out some answers and collect on that debt.  

Circus Mirandus begins as a grandpa is writing a letter to The Lightbender asking him to come because he needs him. Grandpa Emphraim is this kindly old man who has been telling his grandson stories about how he came to know Circus Mirandus.  It's easy to see why his grandson wants to make the story come true in order to save his grandfather.   As I was reading, I couldn't help but want more about Circus Mirandus.  There are pretty cool aspects,  like an invisible tiger guarding the gate, Victoria the flying bird woman and of course the Lightbender.  But, I kept wanting a little more about the circus itself.   Like who is this mysterious person called The Head?  Why was Emphraim considered to be so special?  (Which both were answered by the end of the story).

There are two stories going on at the same time within Circus Mirandus, one during present day and the other a reflection on the past.  The first is Jenny and Micah's quest to find the circus, the second is grandpa Emphraim recalling his trip to the circus when he was ten years old (the same age as Jenny and Micah).  Despite the changes in point of view, the circus is the constant in each of the characters story.  Intermingled is a third one about Victoria,  who has the magical ability to fly with birds.  There is also a a mystery about how she is related to Grandfather Emphraim and Micah, and how this impacts Micah's mission to save his grandfather.  Eventually, I got wrapped up in the mystery and wanted to know more about the Lightbender's magic and why he didn't think that he could keep his promise after all. 

There is a kind of innocence to the story, needing to believe that magic exists and how the circus is for kids "cause adults spoil the mood."  I think it's why Jenny irritated me somewhat during the story though, she was just so rigid in her thinking, and I didn't like that she kept trying to convince Micah that his grandpa "embellished" his stories.  Micah on the other hand,  thought that Jenny just lacked imagination and if she believed a little more,  she could see the circus too.  The other thing that bothered me was how sad the story ended up being.  The message it conveyed of "sometimes we need to let go so others can have their magic" was so sad.   Beasley does make Micah's life better in the end and I think that some of my initial concerns about wanting more circus would be addressed if she were to write a sequel.  

Favorite chapter  "Like a Kettle"

I love the distinction that Beasley uses to distinguish Micah's great-aunt Gertrudis from other women he knows.

"Micah Tuttle knew that most old ladies were pleasant enough.  They knitted warm sweaters and baked cakes with chocolate frosting and played old-fashioned card games at the town social hall.  Sometimes one forgot to put in her fake teeth, like Mrs. Yolane from the post office, or she kept fourteen kooky cats, like Mrs. Rochester from across the street.  But those two were basically chocolate cakes and warm sweaters on the inside. 
               Micah's great-aunt, Gertrudis, was not.  
On the inside, Aunt Gertrudis was probably cough syrup. "     

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