by Cassie Beasley
Related Activities & Resources:
About Cassie Beasley:
SLJ interview with Cassie Beasley:
Book Page interview with Cassie Beasley:
Young Writers interview with Cassie Beasley:
A conversation about mystery with Cassie Beasley:
PW four questions for Cassie Beasley:
Novel Novice blog with Cassie Beasley:
Indies Q & A with Cassie Beasley:
Causes and treatment of shortness of breath (2:28):
Understanding shortness of breath (excellent explanation):
Managing shortness of breath (5:10):
Types of breathing problems.
Quipus and Knots:
Make an Incan quipu.
Picture and explanation of quipu:
Quipu Incan recording system:
The knots on the quipu represent numbers and words and tell history. Make up your own story using a quipa.
Learn the different types of knots:
How to tie knots with video demonstrations:
Make a Monkey’s Fist Knot.
Bending light with Bill Nye (2:02):
How does light bend? Live experiments (5:53):
Einstein is Right. Gravity bends light (4:55):
Dynamo Magician top 10 illusions (5:28):
10 Mind Blowing Optical Illusions (3:58):
Amazing Optical Illusions (4:43):
Make your own menagerie of unusual animals.
Circus performer jobs:
Ephraim asks The Lightbender for help even though he has not heard from him in years. Is there someone who you know would come to your aid at a moment’s notice even if he hasn’t heard or seen you in years? If so, what makes your relationship that special? Do most people have someone like that?
Aunt Gertrudis says bad sense runs in the family. Do you believe bad sense is inherited or learned? Why?
Grandpa Ephraim couldn’t get enough air and coughed and wheezed a lot. How can you help someone who has breathing problems?
Grandpa Ephraim wrote to a lightbender. Is it possible to bend light and if so, how?
The Lightbender uses a parrot to send messages. What other bird is known for carrying messages and how are they trained?
Circus Mirandus is in La Paz, Bolivia. Find it on a map. How far is it from your city or state?
The Lightbender owes Grandpa Ephraim a miracle. If you were promised a miracle, would you take it right then or ask to save it for later? Explain.
If you were offered a miracle, would you use it on yourself or someone else? Why? What would you ask for and why?
Chintzy says she is not The Lightbender’s carrier pigeon. Why does she want Micah to know that she is not owned by anyone?
Porter can open a door from one part of the world to another. If you had such a door name the one place you would like to use the door to visit and why.
Ephraim writes letters to his father during the war. Each letter has Ephraim doing something worse than the letter before, such as cutting school, then robbing a train. Why do you think Ephraim is writing these types of letters? What is his purpose?
If you had a relative or friend in the war, what type of letter would you write? What would you include in the letter? Why?
Micah was going to tie a different knot to represent each of his 24 classmates. Look at the list of knots. Which would you choose to represent you and why?
Jenny and Micah are doing a project together and Micah did not do his part. If you were Jenny what would you do and why? Has this ever happened to you? How did you feel? Were you Jenny or Micah? How did you handle the situation?
Jenny pulls Micah into the crafts closet when she thinks he is about to cry. What does this tell you about Jenny and her character?
Micah tells Jenny about his grandfather, aunt and the circus. If you needed to tell someone something scary and important to get it off your chest who would you confide in and why?
Micah blows up at his aunt while she’s on the phone and unplugs the cord. Why? What sets him off? Try to justify the aunt’s phone conversation. Can you see anything from her point of view? Explain.
What kind of aunt would lock a boy out of the house? If you were Jenny would you have called CPS? Explain.
Jenny sneaks over to work on the project all night with Micah. She lies to her parents. Why do you think she does this?
When Jenny sneaks over to see Micah and has brought supplies, Micah thinks Jenny might not have much imagination, but she had a whole lot of something that was even more important. What is that something?
The ticket taker tells Ephraim he’s been there from the beginning. If the circus was founded in 500 B.C., how old is the circus?
Do you think it’s odd that a magical bird can’t get through a closed window? Explain.
Chintzy thinks there is a serious failing of character because she is not offered a snack. Of Jenny, Micah and Chintzy, which do you believe has the failure of character? Defend your answer.
The Lightbender tells the audience, Watch and I will show you magic. Watch and I will show you your dreams. What do you think he means by this?
The Lightbender has the audience experience many places and things. Ephraim realizes, I am inside history, and it is so much more than it is in books. Do you agree? What does he mean?
Ephraim wants to tell The Lightbender he has changed him for the better. If you could tell someone they changed you for the better, who would you tell and why?
Ephraim had to choose between the miracle of having his father home from the war or doing the right thing and have him stay and save lives. What would you have chosen? What does this tell you about Ephraim?
When Micah tells Ephraim he is going to the circus at midnight, Ephraim tells him, You just be yourself tonight. Who you are is more than good enough. What does he mean by this and why does he feel the need to say it?
Victoria’s father had ‘insanity’ three times. He just changed suddenly from a great career to an iffy one. Why is this considered, ‘insanity’? Is this always a bad thing? Explain.
Why does the ticket taker say the quipu is not a ticket but an invitation? Which is better.
Would you have brought Jenny to the circus if you were Micah? Explain.
If Jenny doesn’t really believe why does she go with Micah? Have you ever gone somewhere with a friend even though you didn’t believe it was a good idea? Why did you go?
If you had a menagerie, what would you put in it?
What would you teach Jean, the elephant, that she didn’t know?
Victoria tells The Lightbender she wants to leave the circus because she wants power and asks if that is so wrong. What do you think and why?
Mr. Head wondered how Victoria, who had been given so much so young, could be so determined to give nothing back. What do you think is the explanation?
Why does Victoria kill her flock and in such a cruel way? If she had done this today in America, what would have happened to her?
Why did The Lightbender make Victoria think she can no longer fly?
Why do you think Victoria thinks children are not important?
Why does The Lightbender tell Micah to pay close attention during the show? What does he want Micah to figure out?
Micah and Jenny both reverse their beliefs about magic after the show. What makes them change their minds?
Ephraim tells Micah when you try to hold onto something too tightly, you break it? Can you give some examples?
Ephraim says that sometimes we need to let go so that other people can have their chance at magic. Explain.
When Micah says he’s not special Ephraim asks him, Doesn’t he want to be? Micah responds, Doesn’t everybody? Do you believe everybody wants to be special? How so?
Ephraim says some of us aren’t brave enough to find our specialness and some of us make mistakes along the way. Explain.
Victoria tricks Gertrudis into jumping off the roof. What does this tell you about Victoria? Has she changed at all? If Gertie used to believe in magic why can’t she believe in it as an adult?
The doctor tells Micah, Ephraim will die before the day is out. If you knew someone would be dead in 24 hours, what would you do during that time and what would you say and why?
When Ephraim learns of Micah’s trip on the gorilla, he says he won’t tell you that you shouldn’t have done it because it was a ridiculous, amazing thing to do, and once in awhile, it’s good to be ridiculous and amazing. Expain.
When asked what magic is, Mica replies, “It’s what’s inside of people. The parts of you that are too big to keep just to yourself.” What does he mean?
Why do you think Mr. Head really insisted on a test? How does walking across a chasm prove he loves the circus when Micah could just be willing to die to get away from his aunt?
Ephraim gave his miracle to help Micah. If you were given a miracle, would you use it on someone else? Why?
Micah says, you never need an invitation to go home. Do you agree? Why?
Book Talk Teasers:
Show one of the above videos on light bending or optical illusions.
Demonstrate a monkey’s knot.
Read pages 55 – “I guarantee you that.” on page 57 (the fight)
Read pages 145 – through “Holy smokes” on page 148 (finding the circus)
Fantasy fiction, moving:
Dickinson, Peter. Inside grandad. Gavin tries to enlist the help of selkies–seal people–to communicate with his comatose grandfather. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, ability diverse, likeable, quirky, feel-good, attention-grabbing:
Lloyd, Natali. A snicker of magic. The Pickles are new to Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, a town which legend says was once magic–but Felicity is convinced the magic is still there, and with the help of her new friend Jonah the Beedle she hopes to bring the magic back. (NoveList)
Low fantasy, quirky, amusing, moving:
Booraem, Ellen. Texting the underworld. Conor O’Neill faces his cowardice and visits the underworld to bargain with the Lady who can prevent the imminent death of a family member, but first Ashling, the banshee who brought the news, wants to visit his middle school. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, plot-driven, fast-paced, attention-grabbing, descriptive:
Paver, Michelle. Spirit walker. When a deadly illness begins to afflict the clans, twelve-year-old Torak, with help from Renn and Wolf, embarks on a journey to find a cure. (NoveList)
Paver, Michelle. Wolf brother. 6,000 years in the past, twelve-year-old Tarak and his guide, a wolf cub, set out on a dangerous journey to fulfill an oath the boy made to his dying father–to travel to the Mountain of the World Spirit seeking a way to destroy a demon-possessed bear that threatens all the clans. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, action-packed, plot-driven, fast-paced, attention-grabbing, suspenseful:
Corder, Zizou. The chase. After saving the lions from evil Maccomo, Charlie, a boy with the ability to speak the language of cats, goes to Venice to search for his parents and solve the mystery of their kidnapping with help from Bulgarian King Boris. (NoveList)
Corder, Zizou. Lionboy. In the near future, a boy with the ability to speak the language of cats sets out from London to seek his kidnapped parents and finds himself on a Paris-bound circus ship learning to train lions. (NoveList)
Corder, Zizou. The truth. Catspeaker, Charlie Ashanti finds himself on a boat to the Caribbean where he will be sold to the Corporacy, but his parents and lion friends are in pursuit, and he is determined to outwit his captors. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, steampunk fiction, plot-driven, amusing, whimsical, attention-grabbing:
Alexander, William. Goblin secrets. Hoping to find his lost brother, Rownie escapes the home of the witch Graba and joins a troupe of goblins who perform in Zombay, a city where humans are forbidden to wear masks and act in plays. (NoveList)
Plot-driven, world-building, fast-paced, attention-grabbing, stylistically complex:
Stewart, Paul. Freeglader. Fleeing from the ruins of New Undertown, Rook Barkwater and the librarian knights and Felix Lodd and his banderbear friends must lead the escaping population to a new life in the Free Glades. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, plot-driven, suspenseful, attention-grabbing, dialogue-driven:
Blackwood, Sage. Jinx. A young boy named Jinx encounters magic and danger as he grows up in the deep, dark forest known as the Urwald and discovers that the world beyond–and within–the Urwald is more complex than he could imagine. (NoveList)
Blackwood, Sage. Jinx’s magic. A young wizard’s apprentice, Jinx, learns that his forest home, the Urwald, is under threat, and to save it he must travel to a new land. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, high fantasy, action-packed, plot-driven, fast-paced, suspenseful, attention-grabbing:
Carman, Patrick. Into the mist. Captain Roland Warvold tells Alexa and Yipes about the adventures he shared with his brother Thomas in Elyon, before the wall went up and divided the world in two.. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, fantasy mystery stories, action-packed, plot-driven, attention-grabbing, witty:
Levine, Gail Carson. Stolen magic. Elodie and her companions return to her home island of Lahnt, where the theft of a protective statue has threatened the island with a deadly volcanic eruption. (NoveList)
Ursu, Anne. The real boy. A shy boy named Oscar who works as the hand to a powerful magic worker becomes the only person who can save his village from an evil monster. (NoveList)
Canadian fiction, fantasy fiction, action-packed, plot-driven, suspenseful:
Auxier, Jonathan. Peter nimble and his fantastic eyes. When 10-year-old Peter Nimble, a blind orphan, discovers a magical pair of eyes, he is magically transported to a hidden island where he is asked to travel beyond the known world and rescue a lost kingdom from its evil ruler. (NoveList)
Fantasy mystery stories, plot-driven, attention-grabbing:
Carman, Patrick. Floors. Ten-year-old Leo lives in the marvelous Whippet Hotel with his father, the hotel’s maintenance man. With the hotel’s owner missing and greedy developers after the large tract of land that the Whippet occupies, Leo stumbles upon a cryptic box containing clues that lead to hidden floors, strange puzzles, more boxes, and — hopefully — a way to save the hotel from being demolished. — Description by Ellen Foreman. (NoveList)
Adventure stories, action-packed, plot-driven, suspenseful, attention-grabbing:
Stewart, Paul. Fergus Crane. Nine-year-old Fergus Crane’s life is filled with classes on the school ship Betty Jeanne, interesting neighbors, and helping with his mother’s work until a mysterious box flies into his window and leads him toward adventure. (NoveList)
Science fiction, action-packed, fast-paced, descriptive:
Fagan, Deva. Circus galacticus. Trix’s life in boarding school as an orphan charity case has been hard but when an alluring young Ringmaster invites her, a gymnast, to join Circus Galacticus she gains an entire universe of deadly enemies and potential friends, along with a chance to unravel secrets of her own past. (NoveList)
Fantasy fiction, plot-driven, fast-paced:
Fagan, Deva. The magical misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle. The personal quests of a young witch who aspires to be a villain and a young thief who is determined to become a hero intersect in a swampy bog. (NoveList)
By Cassie Beasley.
2015. 304p. Dial, $17.99 (9780525428435). Gr. 4–7.
First published May 15, 2015 (Booklist).
Micah’s parents died when he was just a toddler, and now he happily lives with Grandpa Ephraim, who tells him fantastic stories, the best of which are about Circus Mirandus, a circus kids can only attend if they believe in magic. When Ephraim was a boy, he came upon the magical circus and met the Man Who Bends Light, who was so impressed by Ephraim’s knot-tying skills that he promised him a miracle. Now, many years later, Ephraim is dying, and Micah is determined to make sure he gets his miracle. Joined by his skeptical, brilliant friend Jenny, Micah seeks out Circus Mirandus to see its wonders for himself and to confront the Lightbender, though in the process, he learns more about himself than he ever expected. Debut author Beasley has built an imaginative world in evocative, painterly prose, particularly the circus, and she’s filled it with compellingly multifaceted characters. Some elements don’t quite knit together, but with a sequel in the works, don’t be surprised if those loose ends tie up nicely. —Sarah Hunter
by Cassie Beasley; illus. by Diana Sudyka
Intermediate Dial 296 pp.
6/15 978-0-525-42843-5 $17.99
Micah lives with his grandpa Ephraim, who regales him with stories of the amazing Circus Mirandus and its magical leader, the Lightbender. But now that Ephraim is dying and unimaginative Aunt Gertrudis is taking over Micah’s care, it seems that the Circus might actually be real. Beasley’s first novel succeeds in tone, suspense, and inventiveness of the magical setting, but her invented world feels more convincing than her real one, and the highly allegorical character and narrative arcs never get far beyond obvious hints and platitudes: “Do you realize that magic as we know it is fading? Do you realize that [we] are fighting to keep enchantment alive in the world? You say the children aren’t special, but they are. They are the key to everything.” The reader may not be sure why this matters, but may believe it does, and a promised sequel might hold the answers. Beasley has talent in crafting energy on the page but has not yet succeeded in telling a fully realized story. NINA LINDSAY (September/October 2015 Horn Book Magazine)
School Library Journal:
Gr 4–6—Fifth-grader Micah Tuttle has been living with his Grandpa Ephraim since his parents died when he was very young. The two are close; Grandpa Ephraim teaches Micah how to tie complicated knots and tells him fanciful tales about the magical Circus Mirandus and its many performers, including a powerful illusionist called the Lightbender. When Grandpa Ephraim becomes gravely ill, his sister, the strict and dour Aunt Gertrudis, comes to take care of the household. She severely limits Micah’s time with his sick grandfather, and the boy is distraught at the idea of losing the only important person in his life. In a stolen moment, Grandpa Ephraim surprises Micah by revealing that the Circus Mirandus is real, and that the Lightbender promised him a miracle when he was a child. The protagonist begins to hope that his grandfather will get well. The Circus Mirandus arrives in town on the wind, and Micah, with the help of his classmate Jenny Mendoza, seeks out the Lightbender and tries to retrieve the miracle that Grandpa Ephraim has requested. During a whirlwind adventure in the Circus, Micah learns about his family and discovers that the miracle that Grandpa Ephraim asked for might not be the one that Micah had in mind. Circus Mirandus is not a simple story, but readers will be rewarded for delving into its intricacies. VERDICT This gripping fantasy tale will have readers hooked from the opening scene to the breathtaking—and unexpected—conclusion.—Sarah Reid, Broome County Public Library, Binghamton, NY
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Beasley, Cassie. Circus Mirandus. Illustrations by Diana Sudyka. Dial / Penguin, 2015. hb 9780525428435, ebook 9780698189065
Grandpa Ephraim, who has raised Micah Tuttle for most of his ten years, is dying, but he can’t go in peace until he claims a miracle promised to him by the Lightbender, a magician in a mysterious circus Ephraim attended in his youth. Micah has been hearing stories of the wondrous Circus Mirandus all his life, and he believes that that the Lightbender will restore the old man to health and thereby send Ephraim’s officious sister Gertrudis—Micah’s resented and resentful guardianin-waiting—packing. With the help of a skeptical schoolmate, Jenny, Micah does find the circus and share his grandfather’s awe, but the miracle Grandpa brokers with the Lightbender isn’t quite the one Micah wants, even though it’s exactly the one he needs. The tender relationship between grandfather and grandson is delicately drawn, and the family backstory, with its ties to a dark episode in the millennia-old history of Circus Mirandus, is intriguing. Monochromatic illustrations are painterly but robust, neatly enclosing their drama in bordered vignettes. At the core of Beasley’s debut novel is the theme of eternal life explored in Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, and readers will sense the rightness of Grandpa Ephraim’s final request even as they share Micah’s reluctance to let the ailing man go the way he lived—caring for his grandson to the very end. Review code: R – Recommended. Gr. 4-7. Elizabeth Bush (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, September 2015 (Vol. 69, No. 1))