Friday, July 31, 2015

Audiobook Review: Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs. Read by Bronson Pinchot. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, June, 2015. 9781101892312. (Purchased.)

Micah Tuttle has lived with his beloved grandfather, Ephraim ever since his parents died. The two are as thick as thieves. Ephraim taught Micah how to tie knots and Micah grew up listening to his grandpa's stories about Circus Mirandus. Now, his grandpa is ill and his odious great-aunt Gertrudis is taking over. She restricts Micah's access to his grandfather and has absolutely no tolerance for any talk of magic in general and Circus Mirandus in particular. What's more, Micah's going to disappoint Jenny Mendoza, the smartest girl in the fifth grade, because he hadn't been able to work on his part of their project on ancient Incans. 

When Micah finally slips in to visit, he learns that his grandfather has sent a message to the Lightbender. You promised me a miracle. Micah knew these words to be part of the story, and while he hoped, he never truly believed that Circus Mirandus was real. Grandfather Ephraim had saved his miracle all these years and now the Lightbender would come and save him. Micah was sure of it.

What a world debut author, Cassie Beasley has created! Step right up, folks! There's something here for everyone - young readers or old, voracious readers and, quite possibly reluctant readers. The beautifully designed cover will lure readers with the promise of magic. Who doesn't love a circus? Micah is instantly likable. His relationship with his grandfather is achingly palpable. His budding friendship with Jenny Mendoza is authentic. The flashbacks to grandpa Ephraim's childhood are seamlessly woven and perfectly paced - inducing and enticing the reader to turn the page, if reading with eyes or continue, if reading with ears.

The world Beasley builds is intricate, fascinating and wholly believable and the language is absolutely lovely. There's suspense and adventure but there's a subtle underpinning of sadness, of yearning, of disappointment and dashed dreams. The narration by Bronson Pinchot is beautifully understated. His voice choices for a myriad of characters are fitting and consistent. He imbues Micah with such a sense of longing and hope even as he is grieving. The narration is perfectly paced. As much as I couldn't stand to stop for want of knowing what would happen next, I was sad to leave the world of Micah and miracles. While the ending was satisfying, there are some loose ends that might warrant a sequel, which would be welcome.

It is because of the audiobook that I would recommend Circus Mirandus to struggling or reluctant readers. Stories told through flashbacks can be a challenge for even the best of young readers. Reluctant readers may not have the patience or stamina and struggling readers may not have the ability. Pinchot's performance makes the story accessible to everyone.

I received an arc of Circus Mirandus back at ALA Midwinter. The rep said, "This lives up to the hype," as she handed me my copy. I am happy to report that it does. Do not miss this one. Read it and share it with your patrons/ students. 

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