If you’re looking for a book that has it all – magic, adventure, whimsy, family, unlikely friendships and daring feats – then today’s selection is just the book you’ve been looking for. Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley welcomes readers into the relationship between ten-year-old Micah Tuttle and his Grandpa Ephraim. Micah has been raised by his grandfather since he was a baby, following the tragic death of both of his parents.
Theirs is an easy-going relationship; Grandpa Ephraim clearly cherishes Micah for who he is and in turn, Micah adores him, as well. One of their favorite pastimes is sharing stories of Circus Mirandus, the truly magical carnival Grandpa Ephraim claims to have visited in his youth. Through the years, he has regaled Micah with fantastical stories of hulking strongmen, sentient pachyderms and a beautiful woman who flies among wild birds she’s tamed.
But the star of Grandpa Ephraim’s stories has always been The Man Who Bends Light, an illusionist of unparalleled talent, who has the ability to alter the reality of any person who enters his tent. As a young boy, Ephraim was given the opportunity to see his father during such an illusion. He hadn’t seen his father for some time, as he was away, serving during war. Though he knows it’s not really his father, the illusion is incredibly comforting to Ephraim, allowing him to stay strong through his absence.
One day, at the end of Ephraim’s time at the circus, The Man Who Bends Light tells him that he’d like to gift him with a miracle, one that he is free to redeem at any time he sees fit. All he has to do is ask, and his miracle will be delivered. Ephraim holds tight to this promise for nearly 70 years, bringing us to present day in the story.
Despite their previously happy life together, Grandpa Ephraim has recently become very ill. His younger sister, Aunt Gertrudis, has come to look after him and Micah but she is NOT a fan of the young boy. She always seems to be in a terrible mood when Micah’s around. She accuses him of making Grandpa Ephraim tired and refuses to let them visit with each other.
One night when Aunt Gertrudis is distracted, Micah sneaks a visit with his grandfather. He thinks he’s going to hear a new Circus Mirandus story but instead Grandpa Ephraim shares that he’s written to the Lightbender (as he’s now calling the illusionist). He’s decided that the time is right to redeem his long-promised miracle. As he reads a draft of his grandfather’s letter, Micah admits to himself that he’d always imagined the story of the Lightbender’s miracle to be just that, a story. But Grandpa Ephraim is so sure that his letter will change the future. Could it possibly be true?
From here, the book follows Micah as he journeys to Circus Mirandus, along with a new friend that he’s made in Jenny Mendoza, the smartest girl in fifth grade. Jenny may be smart, but most of the other students don’t like her. They think she’s too uptight and this shows through at times, especially when she’s unable to believe in the magic of the circus, even as she experiences the Lightbender’s illusions for herself. Will Micah’s new friend stand in the way of Grandpa Ephraim having his miracle granted?
Throughout the book, Micah continues to endure Aunt Gertrudis’s poor opinion of him. For most of the book, it’s unclear why she acts so unkindly toward the boy and even her own brother, at least as far as magic and the circus are concerned. When we are first introduced to Gertrudis as a child, she seems to be enamored of her older brother. He even cares for her after the untimely death of their parents. Ultimately, a side story reveals the reason for Gertrudis’s hatred of the circus, as well as providing insight into Micah’s own family history.
In the end, Grandpa Ephraim’s miracle is granted, though the Lightbender is not necessarily inclined to do so right away. It takes a strong show of bravery and commitment by both Micah and Jenny to convince not only the Lightbender but the circus’s owner, Mirandus Head, that the nature of the miracle is in the best interest of all involved. And even then, the miracle is not what Micah believed it would be all along. He’s not even sure he wants it, once it’s revealed in its entirety.
Coming in at nearly 300 pages, Circus Mirandus is a great for bedtime reading. It’s also a good fit for independent readers who have experience with longer chapter books. If your child loves adventure like mine does, the first few chapters of background and setup may be a bit tedious but once the action heats up, they’ll quickly get onboard.
Enjoy your trip to Circus Mirandus… you have to believe it to see it!