Kids’ book provokes thoughts of magic

Circus Mirandus

I was hooked from the opening pages of “Circus Mirandus,” the debut novel by Cassie Beasley.

I found the book in the children’s section of the library as I was gathering novels for my third grader. My 4-year-old was busy looking at other books, so I sat on a nearby couch and opened “Circus Mirandus.” (What better place to steal a few peaceful minutes of reading than a library?)

The first chapter, a mere two pages, gave me goosebumps.

It opens with an old man “who coughed and wheezed with every breath.” He’s writing a letter to “The Lightbender” in care of Circus Mirandus.

“You promised me a miracle,” he writes. “I need you now.”

Throughout my life, books have offered a way to deal with life’s happiest moments and saddest. “Circus Mirandus” is about magic, but also about facing loss and the struggle we all have with letting go of those we love.

Fifth-grader Micah Tuttle is hanging on every story told by his dying grandfather, Ephraim Tuttle. The stories seem too fantastic to believe — a magic circus that dates to 500  B.C. It appears out of thin air, is only open to children, and attractions include an invisible tiger, the smartest elephant in the world, a flying woman and an illusionist called the Man Who Bends Light.

Micah believes his grandfather’s stories, and he believes in the magic of Circus Mirandus. He also believes his grandpa could use a miracle.

As he searches for the circus, Micah learns a lot about friendship, courage, hope and helping others find the magic in everyday life.

Every good book has a villain, and in this case that antagonist is Micah’s great-aunt who has come to care for Ephraim, and will eventually take custody of Micah. Aunt Gertrudis is mean and nasty and absolutely does not believe in magic.

One of my favorite sections is when Micah describes how “most old ladies were pleasant enough” and “were basically chocolate cakes and warm sweaters on the inside.”

He has a different description for his great-aunt: “On the inside, Aunt Gertrudis was probably cough syrup.”

Surely I’m not the only one who remembers quite clearly the nasty cough medicine from my childhood — I immediately understood Aunt Gertrudis’ personality.

But despite her attempts to convince Micah that his grandfather’s stories are just the result of good storytelling and that he needs to come back to reality, the young boy grasps on to his grandpa’s belief in magic.

Because we’ll do just about anything when we need a miracle.

“Circus Mirandus” is reviewed for ages 9-12, but I think anyone who likes to read, and wants to believe in magic, would really enjoy this novel.

I can’t wait to see what story Beasley will think of next — she’s an author to keep on my “to read” list.

 -Lisa Britton, Baker City Herald

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