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Thursday, August 13
My rating: ★★★★
Publisher: Dial Books
Date of publication: June 2, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Themes: grandfather/grandson relationship, faith, magic, magicians, circus
Even though his awful Great-Aunt Gertrudis doesn’t approve, Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather.
Oh, it's such a beautiful book. I don't really know how else to describe it. I was worried that it would be cheesy—the whole "believe, Micah! Believe in the magical circus!" vibe made me nervous. But it's about so much more than that! Beasley celebrates the innocent, trusting faith of children in a very Peter-Pan-esque way (more like Finding Neverland, actually, not the snot-nosed Peter Pan of the actual book). The magic is not cheesy, but something deeper. Something amazing. Okay, enough of the sappiness...
Micah has an amazing amount of depth for the main star of a children's book about a 10-year-old. His fear of losing his grandfather works its way into everything, making the story that much more moving and heartfelt (and realistic). Even the cruel Great-Aunt Gertrudis has quite back story to back up her would-otherwise-be-cliche character. And then there's the Grandpa, who you can't help but love. Really, all the characters were fantastic.
The reason it didn't get the five was my bit of a disappointment in the ending. The book builds up this emotional journey that I just wanted to have explode in a ultra-feel-good firework of an ending—but it sort of fizzled. It was still a happy ending, but one that dragged a bit and lost the magic behind it with that drag. Still, maybe it's more realistic.
In the end, of course I'd still recommend it. It has a bit of the classical whimsy of Chronicles of Narnia and Peter Pan, and is a good readalike for All the Answers (by Kate Messner).
Find it at your library or on Amazon