Title: Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows
Author: Molly E. Johnson
Publisher: RainTown Press
Pages: Hardcover; 320
Release Date: October 26, 2011
Intended Reading Group: Middle Grade
Content Screening: Mild violence, dark humor
HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Older MG readers and younger YA readers who love a good adventure!
Add it on: Goodreads / Publisher's Site
When Spartacus Ryan “Poop Lip” Zander finds his house destroyed and his wacko, Human Cannonball mother missing, it’s obvious that she’s been kidnapped by Bartholomew’s World-Renowned Circus of the Incredible. But when his dad and brother refuse to believe it—because they’re morons, obviously—it’s up to Spartacus to be the hero.
With the Internet-wizardry of his best friend and clues from his mom’s postcards, Spartacus sets out on a zany, west coast rescue mission. But as the stories about the circus get stranger (and Spart’s enemies get weirder), he realizes the only way to bring his family back together is to bring the big top down, once and for all.
Spartacus, or Ryan as he prefers to be called (since it's more "normal"), is quite the main character. I see a lot of MG readers falling in step with him instantly. See his life isn't easy. His mom has disappeared to the circus, he's pretty sure she was kidnapped, but no one else seems to care. Spartacus has no one on his side. Will, his older brother, is a mean and spiteful person. His dad doesn't seem to want to listen. What is a boy to do? Luckily, he has his best friend's technological skills to help, and so off he goes on a wild adventure.
I really enjoyed the humor in this book. It's a little more dark then I'm used to in books for this age group, but there isn't anything that's over the top. The zany adventures that Spartacus is privy to are hilarious, and most of the time really interesting. He's constantly trusting people that he probably shouldn't, and in way over his head. In fact, it is the other characters that pop in and out of this story that make it so fantastic. Molly E. Johnson has found the perfect balance between eccentric characters, and a moral story.
I also really loved Spartacus as a character, specifically. He was always a bit afraid of what was coming next, but willing to face it head on when it came to his mom. The character growth from the beginning to the end in this book is wonderful! It was the ending that really got me, and I won't spoil it one bit for you. Let's just say that things aren't always what them seem. To a young boy on an adventure though, everything is exciting! If you have a younger reader, and are looking for a funny and adventurous read, Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows is a great choice!
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.