"Carnival Magic" by Amy Ephron Is the Whimsical Adventure of Your Dreams

Carnival Magic Final Cover

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The heroine, Tess, is Hermione Granger meets Little Princess Sara Crewe.

Reading Amy Ephron’s new novel Carnival Magic feels like stepping into a different literary landscape entirely. Gone are the themes of extreme fantasy or acute realism that polarize YA novels in 2018, and in their place is a much softer, otherworldly take on childhood mystery, reminiscent of classics such as The Secret Garden or A Little Princess.

That last title, coincidentally, might not exist in its now-classic movie form if not for Amy, a prolific writer who executive produced the 1995 film version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story and helped pen the script. These children’s stories inspired Amy’s newest series, which so far includes The Castle in the Mist and its standalone sequel, Carnival Magic, which was released by Penguin’s Philomel Books on May 1.

Carnival Magic continues the story of siblings Tess, who is heading into 6th grade, and Max, a year younger, who live in the United States but frequently jaunt to England to stay with their aunt and have mystical adventures. In the book, the two end up time-traveling with an old-school carnival and have to figure out how to get home. Tess and Max get up to a whole host of exciting mischief, with the fearless Tess even getting to transform into a trapeze performer.