Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley, review by Melissa Fox
I have a confession: I am not a critical reader. I fall head first into books and they either work for me or they don't. I don't stop to think much about a deeper meaning, or issues, or (sadly) stereotypes and cliches. I like characters (or not), I like the plot (or not), I like the writing (or not). And so, I find myself loving or hating books and not having a real "reason" for it.
All this is a preface to explain that I fell head first in love with Circus Mirandus, and I'm not sure I can adequately explain what it was about the book that made me love it so.
Micah has been raised by his grandfather since his parents died when he was young. He's had a good life; his grandfather is the sort of person who just knows how to be happy. Grandpa enjoys life (in spite of his Roald Dahl-esque sister who tries to put a damper on everything), embracing it fully. He is also a storyteller, raising Micah on stories of the grand Circus Mirandus (which is not your average three-ring, traveling circus) and the Lightbender, who promised Micah's grandfather a miracle. It has been a charmed childhood.
But, grandfather's health is failing, and so he decides to cash in on the Lightbender's miracle. But getting a miracle isn't as easy as asking for it. Which is where Micah (and his friend Jenny Mendoza) comes in: he needs to find the mysterious (possibly non-existent) circus and convince the Lightbender to help grandfather get the miracle he deserves.
To say that I loved this book is an understatement. There was so much that I wholeheartedly embraced, from Micah and his grandpa's relationship to the flashbacks of Grandpa's first experience with the circus to the light, whimsical magical feel. I loved that Jenny was smart, and that she was the rational, skeptical one, believing in her friend. I loved the whimsy and the slight magical feel of the book. But most of all, I loved the enormous emotional heart of the book.
I don't know how kids will react to this one; I read this one for me, not thinking about how kids will like it. I hope they find the whimsy, friendship, and illustrations charming and the story engaging. But this one is truly a book for all ages, one that an adult can appreciate as much as the target audience.