Cassie Beasley’s middle grade fiction novel, Circus Mirandus, certainly deserves a space on the shelf with The Polar Express and Alice in Wonderland, as all three explore the importance of a belief in magic and the unexplainable through a creative explosion of fantastical characters that pluck at the very heart strings of love and life. On the surface, Beasley’s Circus Mirandus is a visual delight of fun house creatures, sideshow oddities and mind bending magicians, but pull the tent flap back just a bit and readers will find a touching examination of the special bond between a devoted grandfather and his grandson and a stunning message about faith and the magic of love.
In Circus Mirandus, Beasley conjours up a mystical traveling circus that appears like Brigadoon to the faithful who believe. The circus first materializes to a young Grandpa Ephraim and it both changes and shapes his life in essential ways. When the story opens, Ephraim is a dying old man whose powerful relationship with his grandson, Micah, makes them both reach out to Circus Mirandus for a miracle. Beasley wonderfully complicates Ephraim and Micah’s quest with a horribly wicked Aunt Gertrudis. Even her name sticks in your throat as you read it and her actions make you hate her in a most satisfying way. Then along comes clever and logical Jenny, a classmate and friend of Micah’s, to act as a perfect foil to both Aunt Gertrudis’ nastiness but also to Micah’s faith in the existence of magic.
The search to find Circus Mirandus will be just as harrowing as the sights and characters of the circus itself. Readers will feel their hearts swell and swoon as they join Micah on his quest to discover the circus and the miracle he and his grandfather desire. Along the way, it would be a good idea to adhere to British science fiction writer Arthur Clarke’s second law – The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. This is true both when hunting for a magical circus and in our universal pursuit of happiness.
Enjoy the discovery!
Plot, character and creativity are Beasley’s greatest strengths as she masterfully pulls readers into her story of magical realism. First, she makes you care about Ephraim and Micah. Then, she enthralls you with the fanciful charm of her circus and its performers. Finally, she presents a life or death problem plagued with a vile villain.
The formula may seem simple, but Beasley plays out her plot and characters with the skill of a master puppeteer and, at some point it may be true, that the strings are attached to the reader who happily allows Beasley to move them through her wonderful tale. Beasley lets her story unfold with a seamless flow back and forth between Ephraim’s boyhood to the present, where the reader is following Micah’s struggle to save his grandfather, find the circus and survive horrible Aunt Gertrudis. Backstory comes through chapters told within the tents of the circus and Beasley offers up each new bit of information just as the reader is relaxing. She ramps up the rising tension of her plot by removing the limits of Aunt Gertrudis’ wickedness, pushing Grandpa Ephraim closer and closer to death, and then snatching away the certainty of Circus Mirandus as a solution.
In the end it is simply magic.