Under the Big Tent: Reviewing Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Grown-ups tend to exaggerate. We can go so far as saying they lie for the sake of children’s happiness. Fostering hope, imagination, and wonder is part of the adult code of conduct with kids. In Cassie Beasley’s middle grade book Circus Mirandus, Micah’s grandpa Ephraim has told stories of a magical circus. When Grandpa gets sick, Micah will find out whether his belief in Circus Mirandus is a childish whim or if the circus is real and can help save his grandpa.
For as long as Micah and Grandpa lived together, Grandpa told stories about his boyhood and stumbling upon a magical circus. The circus is home to a woman who can fly with birds, a giant tiger, and best of all the Lightbender. Unfortunately, Grandpa is dying and his sister, Aunt Gertrudis, arrived to take care of him and look after Micah. She is a harsh woman who thinks Micah’s belief in the circus is a cancer in his life. But when grandpa calls in a miracle with the Lightbender, Micah knows his beliefs will be justified. Along with his new friend Jenny, they find the circus and see the magic for themselves. But will the circus help Micah’s grandpa or is he doomed to a life with horrible Aunt Gertrudis?
This book is being touted as a children’s version of Big Fish, and that is a very apt description. Grandpa’s stories of the magical circus bolstered his and Micah’s relationship. Where Aunt Gertrudis thinks Grandpa is only crippling Micah by insisting on the reality of Circus Mirandus. This is a story of belief and trust. One that will encourage children to be creative, to believe in miracles, and to trust that there is magic in this world even when things seem hopeless. For any adults reading this, the message is clear: don’t be an Aunt Gertrudis!
Although this book is about a magical circus, the underlying story is that Micah’s grandpa is dying. The book deals with death and dying in a gentle way. Although miracles and magic exist within the world of the book, there are still limitations and Beasley does a superb job of towing the line between reality and fantasy.
Circus Mirandus is a wonderful book for summer reading. It is a quick read and will be the perfect companion for kids around 9-12 years old who enjoy magical realism. Also, this book received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly along with a mention in Indies Introduce. So if my review isn’t enough to sway you to give the book a read, praise from all of the above should help!
Kristin Milks is a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive