Dial, 2015 292 pgs
Micah has lived with his Grandpa Ephraim ever since his parents died when he was very small. Micah and Grandpa have always been close, so it rocks Micah's world when Grandpa becomes gravely ill and evil Aunt Gertrudis comes to stay. Grandpa has always talked to Micah about his childhood adventures at a magical circus and the wonderful magician who transports children to the places of their dreams. Finally, sensing that the end is near, Grandpa reaches out to the Lightbender to call in a favor owed to him from the magician saved for many years. The Lightbender sends his talking parrot to act as messenger delivering Grandpa's request to the circus. Meanwhile, Micah struggles with living with his hateful aunt and facing school-life, all under the gloom of Granpa's illness. After being pair-up with nerd-girl, Jenny, the two become unlikely friends. Micah confesses his troubles to his new friend and she agrees to help him. Meanwhile, an answer to Grandpa's favor comes back from the Lightbender with an answer Grandpa doesn't like. Micah and Jenny hunker down in Micah's tree house to work on their project and research the Circus Mirandus. One night Micah hears circus music that Jenny cannot hear. It leads him to a ticket booth that does not accept money. Micah knows he made it to the right place, only Jenny can't see it. He must get both of them in and find the Lightbender in order to plead for him to save Grandpa. Entry is finally gained and the magical circus is revealed in all its splendor. Once Micah locates the Mindbender he must get him to agree to grant Grandpa his wish, before its too late!
Projected as a major summer release, Circus Mirandus does not disappoint. First time author, Beasley, has a lyrical storytelling voice. The story is realistic fantasy: today's world with magical elements. The harsh realities of Micah's life with his beloved Grandfather failing and unpleasant aunt being horrible paint a stark contrast against the magical wonderfulness and dream-like quality of the Circus Mirandus. The circus has a Polar Express vibe (only kids who believe in magic can see it and you must be preapproved by the ringmaster) with a bit of The Night Circus (magical, moving circus) thrown in. Micah is a likable and believable character who many kids will relate to. His sweet and quiet nature is a perfect compliment to his new friend Jenny, who also feels familiar. Grandpa is a wonderful character and makes the reader long for such an understanding and loving person in our lives. Aunt Gertrudis is deliciously evil and selfish. She becomes almost a caricature, but its fun to have a villain to hate and propels us to root for our hero. Part of her back-story is revealed as the book goes on, making her motivation more believable. This book is quiet, but reads quickly and never drags. Both boys and girls will enjoy it. Circus Mirandus feels timeless and is destined to find a permanent home on library shelves. Beasley shows us the power of friendship, the importance of loyalty and keeping your word, and, of course, the wonder of magic. She makes us believe that magic can be hiding in the most unlikely places and we can see it if we just believe and pay attention. The Circus Mirandus will have many young people listening for circus music ready to begin their own adventure.