Title: Circus Mirandus
Author: Cassie Beasley
Illustrator: Diana Sudyka
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Audience: Ages 9 – 12 years
Summary: Micah Tuttle feels like he is doing nothing but trying these days-trying to get along with his Aunt Gertrudis, trying to help his Grandpa Ephraim who is dying, trying to complete a school project so that he won’t let his partner, Jenny Mendoza, down. Aunt Gertrudis, Ephraim Tuttle’s sister, has come from Arizona to take care of things while he is sick and to protect Micah from the foolish stories he tells about Circus Mirandus. Micah loves the stories of Circus Mirandus, a magical place that Grandpa Ephraim once visited, a place that seems almost real. Then Grandpa Ephraim shows him a letter that he has written to The Man Who Bends Light (Lightbender) at Circus Mirandus asking for the miracle that had once been promised him there. Micah realizes now that Circus Mirandus is real, that the the Lightbender can save his grandfather, and that he must find the circus. Two stories- Ephraim at Circus Mirandus and Micah at Circus Mirandus- are told alternately. Ephraim as a boy had missed his chance to tie magic knots at the circus because of a bad choice that he made; he wants that chance for Micah. Micah with the help of his skeptical school friend, Jenny, finds the Circus, experiences its wonders, and finally brings the Lightbender to Grandpa Ephraim’s bedside. The miracle proves to be something quite different from what Micah expected.
Literary elements at work in the story: There is a touch of magic in Cassie Beasley’s prose. Phrases like “the quiet started to itch” and scenes like a wallaby that could burp the Greek alphabet and a cloud of fairies that can become butterflies fill the pages. Circus Mirandus with its animals, it’s candy that lights up when it is chewed, a blue blue fruit drink that makes one sing opera for an hour, Jean, the elephant, who does math problems on a chalk board, and crowds of children without any adults become visible through Beasley’s prose. Her magic extends to relationships as well as she describes Ephraim and Micah’s last night together and Micah and Jenny’s growing friendship. Grandpa Ephraim’s death is beautifully portrayed. Diana Sudyka’s illustrations are an interesting addition to the book. Done in blacks, whites, and grays, they contrast with the vivid colors and scenes described verbally. The circus is not quite so visible and real as the words make it seem. The elephant striding through the town before Ch. 31 is a subdued bit of magic.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Of only limited application. The central characters are all males. Of the three females that figure in the story, two are truly bad.
Theological Conversation Partners: Magic and magicians are viewed unfavorably in the Bible. (See Deut 18:10-11, Ex 22:18, , Lev. 1926, Acts 8:9-24 Acts. 13:10) but none of these characters quite match the Man Who Bends Light. Their magic is primarily a means of controlling God. Circus Mirandus has a different purpose according to the Head: to foster hope. The Lightbender is clear that he is an illusionist, that what he does is not real, but it has a powerful effect on both Ephraim and Micah. Why? How? This is the question to address. In order to see and experience these things, one must believe. There’s a parallel here to the Christian faith, believing comes before seeing. The story of Thomas (John 20:24-29 ) is a commentary on this. Our understanding of faith, miracle, magic, and belief should be clarified through discussion. One possibility for discussion is God’s gift of imagination. The author has used hers to create a place of wonder and beauty that opens the imagination to possibilities that can become realities. Imagination, fed by Scripture, plays a role in envisioning the Kingdom of God.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What is magic according to Micah? (p267) Is that how you would define magic?
- The Man Who Bends Light is an illusionist. What does that mean? Is what sense is what he does real?
- Ephraim says that the Lightbender has changed him, has given him enough courage to go back to school and accept his father’s absence. How has he done this.?
- What does Mr. Head say is the purpose of Circus Mirandus?
- Micah realizes that Jenny can’t see Circus Mirandus because she is not looking for Circus Mirandus. How do our expectations and our beliefs affect what we see?
- Think about the tickets used for admission to Circus Mirandus. Children don’t visit the Circus more than once and the tickets accepted are unusual. What kind of ticket would you present?
- How does Micah prove he will be a trustworthy member of Circus Mirandus? How does he prove his love for his grandfather?
- What is a miracle? The Lightbender says children usually ask for things that aren’t miracles at all. What miracle would you ask for?
- What do you think of Grandpa Ephraim’s request for a miracle?
- Imagination is one of God’s good gifts, it enables us to see possibilities and envision good things. Use your imagination to think of a school class where everyone observed the Golden Rule. How would people act?
This review was written by alumna and frequent reviewer Virginia Thomas.
Circus Mirandus by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.