Do authors ever try to summarize their own books? It sounds like a scary prospect to me. Which is maybe why I’ve chosen to do the job in the form of a character list instead.
I think this should be a good refresher for those of you who want one before The Bootlace Magician releases next Tuesday. You can skim over the list and pick out the names of characters you’d like to read a little more about. All of the most important bits of the story are mentioned, and I think this will be all you need if you’ve read the book before.
If you’ve got any questions that I didn’t answer or thoughts you’d like to share, just leave a comment!
Our main character. Micah’s parents died in a boating accident (the author had big plans for this boating accident, but they’ve yet to make it onto the page), and he’s been raised by his beloved grandfather, Ephraim, who is now dying.
Micah believes in magic and is determined to find Circus Mirandus. He’s sure that a powerful magician called the Lightbender will be able to save his grandpa’s life.
Micah’s hobby is knot-tying (a family specialty) and over the course of the book he realizes that he can imbue the knots he ties with his own memories. He uses his talent to tie an Incan quipu for a project at school, to attach himself to a giant gorilla balloon for an aerial assault on the circus, to share his memories of Jenny Mendoza with his grandfather, and to make a friendship bracelet for Jenny at the end of the book.
Throughout the story, Micah struggles to come to terms with Grandpa Ephraim’s illness, and often his magical knots hold an unintended impression of his grandfather: “Warm and wonderful and coughing and wheezing and slowly, oh so slowly, coming undone.”
Micah’s sharp-minded and kind-hearted partner for a school project. The two of them become best friends.
Jenny’s willing to do everything she can to help Micah, even if that means sleeping outdoors in Micah’s half-finished tree house and sneaking out for midnight bike rides in search of magical circuses that can’t possibly exist.
Certain that all of the magic she encounters must have a scientific explanation, Jenny causes a few awkward moments for Micah when they finally make it to the circus. But there’s nobody you would rather have by your side when you’re in trouble. When Micah’s own hope falters, Jenny is the one who’s there to make sure he doesn’t give up.
Jenny is relatively new to the town of Peal, and she struggles with mean girls making fun of her at school.
Her parents’ names are Arturo and Silvia. They have a German Shepherd named Watson. (Who keeps getting cut out of scenes during the revision process, to the dog-loving author’s chagrin.)
When Micah’s grandfather was a boy, he followed the sound of pipes and drums to find Circus Mirandus. He paid for his entry with a fish that had swum into his boot. He spent a week there, watching all the shows, and he earned a miracle from the Lightbender by showing off his family’s knot-tying magic, using an old leather bootlace that Micah later inherits.
Ephraim wanted to become a magician when he grew up, but when he sought the circus again as a young man, he was intercepted by Victoria Starling/The Bird Woman.
He married Victoria (without knowing she was evil), and for a few years, they raised his little sister Gertrudis together.
Great Aunt Gertrudis
She loves aquarobics, bitter hot tea, and her retirement community in Arizona. She does not love Micah.
Her own faith in magic was broken when the Bird Woman encouraged her to jump off a roof and then refused to fly up and catch her.
She has a couple of chances to change her mind about magic in the book, but in the end, she doesn’t.
AKA The Man Who Bends Light. The circus’s illusionist doesn’t actually bend light, but that sounds less frightening than the truth. He’s a mind manipulator who uses his power for good—to entertain the children who come to his shows and to hide the circus from the world at large.
His performances usually involve a world tour, with stops in Ancient Rome, the jungle, and Antarctica.
He once used his magic to make Victoria Starling think she’d lost the ability to fly.
His magic is very powerful, but unfortunately, illusions can’t save Micah’s grandfather.
The Lightbender has a messenger parrot named…
The Lightbender’s messenger parrot. Very fond of lemon cookies, peanut butter crackers, and herself.
Chintzy can tell when someone is trying to send the illusionist a letter. Normally, she travels quickly, using Doors provided by a magician called Porter. But when she bites him on the nose, she ends up flapping around the sewers for a few hours instead. (Not that she would ever let the antics of silly humans cramp her style! Above all, Chintzy is a professional.)
Victoria Starling/The Bird Woman
Micah’s grandmother, though they’ve never met.
The daughter of a wealthy and eccentric furrier, Victoria grew up in the untamed wilds of Canada. After surviving a plane crash in her youth, she discovered she had the power to fly and mind control birds. For a brief time, she worked at Circus Mirandus, but she began to think she was too important to “waste” herself inspiring and encouraging children.
She drove her own magical flock of birds to dive-bomb her audience in a fit of pique. She wanted to prove to the Lightbender that children’s faith in magic was fragile and, ultimately, not worth nurturing. (Which is one of the main goals of the magicians who work at Circus Mirandus.)
She was banished for her crimes, and she temporarily lost her powers thanks to the Lightbender’s magic.
The circus’s manager. He’s not a magician. He’s not even quite human, though Micah doesn’t know what else he might be. And he exudes a power that causes living creatures under his care to thrive. It’s why many of the magicians at the circus have been alive for centuries.
He takes care of magical animals in the circus’s menagerie, with help from his companion…
The circus’s often-invisible guard tiger. Bibi is Mr. Head’s companion. She is white and, according to Jenny Mendoza, much bigger than a tiger is supposed to be.
The world’s most intelligent elephant, who is fond of math and geography. Micah teaches her how to tie knots when he visits.
Big Jean gives the Lightbender a lift when he needs to leave the circus. First to visit Ephraim’s bedside, and then to collect Micah at the end of the book. (Probably the other magicians don’t need an elephant-back ride when they leave the circus, but the Lightbender hasn’t been in the outside world for quite a while. Without Big Jean’s good sense he might very well get lost or wander into traffic!)
A very large Fish that lives in a tank at the center of Mr. Head’s menagerie. He was tiny when he swam into a younger Ephraim’s boot decades before. Ephraim used him as his ticket to get into the circus.
Circus Mirandus’s healer and potions maker. Rosebud is seven feet tall, and she gives Micah a special tea that will make his grandfather feel more like himself for a short while.
A Strongman who guards the Lightbender’s tent. The circus has several Strongmen, and each of them wears a different hat. (It’s not mentioned explicitly in the book, but it’s true nonetheless!) Bowler wears a bowler hat.
Circus Mirandus’s ticket-taker. He’s been there from the very beginnin’. And he knows what a ticket looks like. Geoffrey won’t accept money. The tickets have to be something visitors to the circus have brought with them.
The Gorilla Balloon
It might not be a character, but it’s still one of my favorite parts of the book. Micah uses the balloon to mount an aerial assault on the circus when the Lightbender and Mr. Head refuse to grant Grandpa Ephraim’s dying wish.
He crashes right through the roof of the Lightbender’s tent on top of the illusionist’s head. Ouch!
Throughout the book, Micah assumes the miracle Grandpa Ephraim has asked the Lightbender for is a cure for his illness, and he’s terribly hurt and disappointed when he finds out that the illusionist doesn’t have the ability to heal his grandfather.
In fact, Grandpa Ephraim has asked the Lightbender to adopt Micah. He wants Micah to have a better life than he would have with Gertrudis, and he wants him to have the chance that Ephraim himself missed out on–to live at the circus and learn more about his own magic.
Mr. Head has his doubts about the circus taking in a child, especially one related to Victoria Starling, because being one of the circus’s magicians is a big responsibility. But the Lightbender persuades the manager and the other magicians to come around in the end.
Mr. Head tells the Lightbender that he needs to make sure Micah truly loves the circus and wants to be there, and the Lightbender uses an illusion of a chasm across the interstate as a sort of test. Micah, trusting that the circus is calling him and confident that the magic doesn’t mean him harm, crosses the chasm and finds Big Jean and the Lightbender waiting on the other side to carry him to his new home.
(It’s the author’s opinion that the manager didn’t mean for the Lightbender to do something that extreme, and he was no doubt exasperated when he heard the story later. Sometimes, a certain illusionist gets carried away by his own flare for drama.)
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