What Hooked Me in Cassie Beasley’s Circus Mirandus

Megan: Circus Mirandus. I have to say, when our group took this book on, between the title and the cover, we were all like kids with saucer-shaped eyes. I mean, it’s a circus. Kids LOVE circuses. Grown-up kids like them just as much. But you know what hooked me? What makes me want to say, “Read this!” to everyone between 10 and 82 (or maybe older, I don’t know why the cutoff has to be 82)? It’s because of friendship. I truly believe that any book–any book that really digs into your heart and doesn’t let go–comes down to the relationships in it. For young adult, this is often a romantic relationship. But I think that’s what I love about middle grade. I love the focus on platonic friendship. This book gives us Jenny and Micah, and as one ascribes to magic and one doesn’t, you can see how they change and help each other. And maybe, best of all, help solve problems that seem out of reach–together. John: I was drawn in by the tenacity of the main character. I think he had such an impact on me because I tend to write characters like this–characters that don’t want to change; from the start, they cling desperately to the purpose or cause they believe in. In Circus Mirandus, Micah loves his grandfather and believes his stories when no one else will. He defies an aunt that makes Lemony Snicket look like a saint and fights to convince Jenny, his new friend, of the reality of magic, but no matter the obstacle, he refuses to give in. While I love a character like Scrooge–the greatest character ever to undergo a dynamic change, I’m also drawn to characters who refuse to let the tempestuous world swirling around change them. Jess: I got to visit a magic circus. It was wonder and adventure that hooked me. I listened to part of this book on the road and couldn’t help looking down every street and into every tree grove. Could that overgrown lot be an invisible circus? If you believe in magic, then maybe. In Circus Mirandus, the fantastical was Micah’s escape, his connection to family/friendship, and his instrument of letting go. That’s the power of fantasy. Imagining leads to exploration and possibilities. Much can be discovered when one is open to magic in the... read more

What’s Write About…Books – 3 reasons why reading is what makes America great!

On this wonderful day we celebrate our country’s independence, I wanted to state on this awesome blog that I believe there are many ways to make America great again, and at the risk of sounding cliché, it comes down to the fact that children are the future. They just are. Scientifically undebatable, that nugget of truth. So, when it comes to strategies on making America great, I believe that our schools and teachers are key. I also believe that reading is neglected far too often. To get to the point on this Independence Day (so you can get back to the pastimes of our forefathers – eating hot dogs, boating on the lake, and sunburning , of course), I want to tell you three things books will do for you and your children that are pretty firework-worthy. Books challenge society. A friend of mine recently gave me a list of books that had been banned through the decades. Wow. It was like every classic you’ve ever heard of or read. And you know why? Mostly, it was because they contained information or subject matter that made society uncomfortable. Sometimes, we forget the true value of liberalism. No, it’s not the rhetoric of the far left. In a nutshell, the classic definition of liberalism allows the free flow of ideas so people can make better decisions. Fiction launches new ideas and new ways of thinking about old ideas. And sometimes, it pushes us to consider why we believe what we believe. Books give a real voice to those we prefer to overlook. I just love R.J. Palacio’s Wonder. We still are a society that struggles to understand people with mental or physical differences, instead of embracing that uniqueness. Hollywood doesn’t have many main characters that deal with physical deformity or mental challenges (I just saw the Accountant, and the main character did have autism, but he was also a stone cold killer). Books are not as mainstream as movies, and there’s so much more opportunity there to read (and publish) books about characters who challenge us to reconsider what is truly normal—and special—about people. Books facilitate conversations on difficult subjects. One thing I always encourage parents to do is read the same books their kids are reading. First of all, it sets an example, but even more importantly, it gives you a common jumping off point. I’ll never forget how Hannah E. Harrison’s My Friend Maggie helped me manage conversations... read more