Children's book reviews for ages 0-12. For parents and their insatiable bookworms.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Juggler in The Wind (Young Adult)

+ + + + / + + + + + Juggler in The Wind
Authors:  Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin 
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: ChironBooks (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935178075
ISBN-13: 978-1935178071

Book description:  When a ragtag circus shows up in the town of Buchanan, Kansas, fourteen-year-old Randy Carmichael faces a deep mystery. Why is his alcoholic mother so troubled by the troupe's arrival? What does Circus Olympus mean to her past and to Randy's future? Voices summon him, a godlike figure appears in his dreams, and supernatural adversaries lay in wait for him as he embarks on a dangerous quest that will take him beyond mortal reality.

Book review:  WOW.  I intended to read the first chapter before bed and then a little each day over the weekend, but twelve chapters later I had to tear myself away so I could get some sleep!  This is definitely a book to keep you up all night.

Generally I review books for ages 0-12, but Juggler in The Wind is worthy of a nod, too. The writing is tight and fast-paced.  The themes are tough but handled well.  Randy Carmichael is coming of age and discovering himself after having spent a lonely fifteen years living with his alcoholic mother, trying not to be 'much trouble' for her.  Against her wishes, the circus--a very strange one--lures him away and Randy is plunged into a world of aged gods (some also alcoholic), magic and a quest to discover who he really is.  The book ends with a taste (a fat and fabulous taste) of what that might be and the temptation to pick up the next two books in the trilogy is over-powering.

I liked the tightly-focused short chapters--it kept the pace going and I just had to see what would happen next.  I liked that this magic is not of a Merlin or fairy origin...in fact, the magic is believable because the yearning Randy has to be and become who he is--to discover how fantastic that is--is something we can all relate to, yet his origins are mythical and the stuff of great stories.

I will say that the magic toward the end isn't all that clear.  I am not sure where the author is coming from.  This is not quite occult and definitely not heavy-handed new age belief.  If either is drawn upon it's with the lightest touch, which makes the book and premise fascinating.   I'd say Randy's new-found self and magic are more psychology, symbology, mythology and the supernatural, blended in poetic fashion, written as dream as Randy faces his own fears and hopes.

This is a very promising first book, masterfully done, and I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

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