Circus Mirandus

IMG_7093When you have a kid, there are certain expenses that you anticipate, like diapers (our sweet girl averaged about twenty diapers per day in her first several weeks) and clothing (she is now five months and transitioning into nine-month clothes. Babies grow fast. You’re lucky if you get two wears out of that adorable outfit on which you spent $35 dollars).

I did not anticipate, however, that I would be spending gajillions of dollars on books for her. Already. But I probably should have. Our amazing friends and family threw us two showers that requested books instead of cards (like this one), and her room is FILLED with books.

IMG_7094Santa even brought a new bookcase for her first Christmas to accommodate the growing number of tomes. Nevertheless, I still find myself buying at least a couple books every week. Books are lovely. I can’t help myself.

Right now, we read a lot of mind-numbing board books (we’re trying to drill letters, numbers, colors, and shapes, after all). But we also get to read her some glorious pictures books. She can turn the pages on the board books and, if she’s in a particularly good mood, she can pay attention through one or two picture books.

Before long, we’ll be able to read her some chapter books. And I’m keeping a mental list of ones I can’t wait to read to her (nothing on this list will surprise you):

And now I can add a new book to that list!

51jQ6iYFVqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Circus Mirandus 
Cassie Beasley
Published June 2, 2015
304 pages (hardcover)

What it’s about: Micah Tuttle’s grandfather, Ephraim, is on his death bed. Ephraim is Micah’s very best friend, and, because Micah’s parents passed away years ago in an accident, he is also Micah’s caregiver and closest family member.

Since Micah was very little, Ephraim has been telling him stories of a magical circus: Circus Mirandus. Ephraim visited the circus once when he was about Micah’s age, and it left a lasting impression. There is one story that Ephraim never told Micah: when he was there, he was offered one miracle. Most kids cash in their miracles right away, of course. But Ephraim saved his . . . and now he is calling it in. Micah assumes that Ephraim is using his miracle to get better, and Micah will do anything he can to make Ephraim’s miracle wish a reality.

Why I read it: I’m always on a quest to find great books to share with my little one. And, let’s be real, I love a good YA/middle reader book. This one was a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015, one of Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2015, and the #1 Kids’ Next List pick for Summer 2015. And guess what? It lives up to the hype! HOORAH!

Rating: 4/5

First things first: this book is beautiful. You can’t tell from the picture of the book cover, but the hat on the dust jacket is actually a cut out. It reveals part of the gorgeous illustration on the book’s cover:

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Every other chapter begins with a full-page black-and-white illustration (the other chapters have tiny illustrations heading up the chapters). Here’s an example:

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Lovely! I’m a sucker for illustrations, I must admit (As an aside: some of my daughters’ picture books are true works of art! Have you seen Journey and Quest? So beautiful!).

This is a “middle readers” book, which means it’s targeted to grades 4 through 7. The vocabulary and writing style are pretty simple (breezy for an adult, accessible for a kid). That said, it handles some heavier subjects, including: disease, death, and dying; betrayal, disappointment, and abandonment; and loyalty, honesty, faith, and friendship.

The best way to describe this book: it’s a bit like The Night Circus for kids. Like the black-and-white, magical Night Circus, Circus Mirandus appears without warning. A kid can follow the wind and the sound of drums and pipes to its location. But, as the back of the book warns, “You have to believe it to see it.”

There’s lots of fun, magic-y stuff like a parrot messenger (think a friendlier version Iago from Disney’s Aladdin), an illusionist who can make you feel like you’re hanging out with Arctic penguins one second and floating the Amazon the next, magic doors that allow distance travel in mere moments, and a French vulture “that could tell the future by plucking its own feathers.”

This is the kind of book you want to read to/with a kid (I would have loved reading this to my fifth-grade students). It is a book about the power of imagination and belief and wonder and magic (“It’s important, when you first see magic, to recognize it. You don’t often get a second chance.”). It reminds us that adults (like Micah’s awful Aunt Gertrudis) often “spoil the mood” with their pesky lack of belief. It extolls keeping one’s word. And it celebrates wonderful friendships. It’s a pretty book, inside and out.

And (this is NOT a spoiler, fret not) the ending sets things up for more Circus Mirandus books (without doing the annoying thing I hate of not actually wrapping things up/finishing the book itself)! Bring ’em on!!

What I’m reading next:

  • Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain by Dana Suskind, M.D. Suskind is the founder of the Thirty Million Words initiative, which is “based on the scientifically demonstrated critical importance of early language exposure on the developing child.” This is a non-fiction parenting book . . . but worry not; it’s much more interesting than the sleep-training book I read (and spared you a review of) a couple weeks ago.
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9 thoughts on “Circus Mirandus

  1. My mom just bought this book for Casey! Must get her to read it soon!

  2. Loved the recommendation, loved the book, and the review 😄

  3. I must get this book on my next book store trip! The illustrations are amazing, and I am a already a great big sucker for circus tales. Something about the magic realism genre makes me want to live in it.

    I also loved this post especially because it reminded me of our own early baby days. As you might have guessed, I am a pretty big book lover myself, and teaching early literacy in K/1 for 15 years before moving to special just magnified that situation. We have gone through many phases and many “favourites” – some of our earliest board books have been re-read many hundreds of times over. Having a co-reader now (age 9!) is as thrilling as I ever guessed it would be. (And still she re-reads picture books over and over – in addition to the stacks of novels…)

    Your book shelf shots are inspiring; if I can move aside the mounds of Lego from my littler one I will try to capture the chaos that is our “library” for a bookshelf post… Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, you should definitely pick it up! It would be a great one to read with your nine-year-old!

      I would love a list of your favorite board books and picture books! I’m always looking for delightful additions, and it sounds like you (and your kids) would have some great suggestions.

      Looking forward to seeing your book shelves!

  4. This is great! Thanks for the recommendation! We too have endless numbers of books for our little girl but I can’t resist, nor do I think it’s the worst thing to spoil a kid with 🙂 So far, our Christmas/birthday tradition has been to buy her two books – one for now and one to grow into. I just bought “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker and am excited to read it to my girl, even if she is still in the chewing on board book stage!

    • Oooh! I’ve never read Pax. It looks lovely (and I just added it to my Amazon cart!). Any other book suggestions? My baby girl also loves to drool/chew on her board books, but I try to read at least one longer picture book to her every day.

      Have you read Thirty Million Words? It’s not very well written, but it’s fascinating if you have a little one. Review coming next week.

      • No, I haven’t read Thirty Million Words.Looks interesting though – I’ll have to check it out further.

        I’ve mostly been reading the classics out loud to my girl – Narnia, Winnie the Pooh, Wind in the Willows. We got her The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels for Christmas but I haven’t read it yet (I just love Anne Michaels’ novels). Right now she’s in a stage where she loves books with pictures of babies or animals so there’s a lot of “reading” that mostly involves animal noises. She’s more likely to sit through anything that rhymes though – Fox in Socks has been a big hit lately!

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