Book Review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron

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Book Review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron

This book just showed up in the mail one day! Fun, right? I love bookmail, and surprise bookmail is even better! Needless to say, I was excited to read this. I’m always looking for fun, new middle-grader reads, and I had high hopes for this one. What could be more magical than a carnival at night with the lights, rides, acts, animals, interesting people, and yummy smells? Check out my book review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron to see what I thought!


“Tess and Max are back in England for another summer with their Aunt Evie—this time by the seashore in South Devon. And they’re incredibly excited about the travelling carnival that’s come to town. There are rides, games, and acrobats, The House of Mirrors—and even a psychic, with a beautiful wagon all her own.

In a visit to the psychic’s wagon, while Tess is being hypnotized, the wagon seems to move. Before Tess can shake herself out of the hypnosis, before Max can do anything, they seem to be travelling—along with the rest of the carnival—too quickly for the two of them to jump out. But where are they going and what awaits them? Will they be caught in a world different from their own? And do the Baranova twins, acrobats who miss their sister almost as much as Tess and Max miss their family, hold the keys to the mystery?

Internationally bestselling author Amy Ephron returns with a companion novel to The Castle in the Mist and creates a magical tale filled with adventure, mystery, fantasy, family, and fun.”

My Book Review:

Let me start off by saying that as I read I got the feeling that there was a book previous to this one. I didn’t know for sure that there is another book until after I finished this one. There may have been some things I would have understood more if I had read the first book. This book starts out as an adventure when Tess and Max’s mom drops them off at the airport. They fly by themselves from the United States to England. They’re going to stay with their Aunt Evie  for the summer.

Aunt Evie seems like the perfect, fun aunt. She has a fun cottage by the ocean and picks up tickets to the zoo on the way home from the airport. While at the zoo, strange things start to happen. The zookeeper allows her to run in for just a few minutes, 6 ½ to be exact. In those 6 ½ minutes she sees a baby tiger in pain and pulls a pin out of its paw. I think that’s exciting, but what? I’ve never been to a zoo that has the tigers available to touch through a rod iron fence. I’m good with fantasy though, so ok, I’ll keep reading. I didn’t quite understand the reason behind the 6 ½ minutes, but I figured it’d be explained later on.

The next day, Aunt Evie takes the kids to a roadside carnival. She allows them to spend most of the day by themselves while she checks out a local antique store. The plan is that she’ll meet them at 1:30 by the big dinosaur. Well, a lot happens before 1:30! It gets a little weird! Tess goes into a psychic’s trailer to be hypnotized and the carnival ends up moving. Magically. In minutes the kids are transported to who-knows-where. The strange thing is that it’s not the same carnival they end up in.

Honestly, from here on out I was a bit confused. The characters that the kids meet are fun and interesting, especially Tatiana, Alexei, Tara, Anna, and Julian. Maybe it’s my old brain (but I usually like middle-grader books!), but I just didn’t understand. Why? How? What purpose? The carnival moved, but they ended up at a different carnival. So, they had to be the ones to move, not the carnival, right? They kept talking about a ghost carnival, but which one was the ghost carnival? Was it the second one or the third one, or both?

The whole part about them escaping really confused me. What? You want two kids and a horse to do what? How? The 6 ½ minute thing was used a few more times, but never explained, so that was a big hole. Also, how time worked at the different carnivals confused me. I don’t want to give anything away, but it just really didn’t make sense.

The writing is descriptive and engaging and the characters are fun and personable. This book has so much potential! Unfortunately, it just falls flat. There are a bunch of holes and unanswered questions, and I felt like things weren’t explained well enough. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know that I’m good with middle-grader books. I’ve read and loved many of them. This one, however, just has too many holes. I would also recommend reading the first book because it may answer some of the questions I had. I’m going to hand it to my nine-year-old, have her read it, and I’ll let you know what she says.  

Content Rating PGRating: PG (It’s clean! There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy.” There are a few kind of tense, scary-ish parts.)

Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th grades) and up

My Rating: 3/5 

3 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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