Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows

Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows

By  Molly E. Johnson

352 pages – ages 10+ (**with a warning)

Published by RainTown Press on October 26, 2011

Spartacus Ryan Zander’s mom (Athena) was a little kooky…OK she was downright strange. She was always trying to do circus tricks like leaping off the roof onto a trampoline and she was obsessed with being a circus performer.  Spartacus’ Dad was always taking Will’s (Spartacus’ older brother) side in arguments and pretty much didn’t believe anything Spartacus said. Will treated Spartacus poorly (but a lot of older brothers will do that). The day Spartacus started seventh grade Athena turned up missing and the house was a mess! The sink was overflowing, the TV was broken and there were knives stuck in the cabinet doors! Will thought maybe she left them and Spartacus’ dad didn’t say much. Spartacus and his best friend Eli had evidence that Athena was kidnapped by  the evil Bartholomew’s Circus. Spartacus runs away to try to find her and Eli helps by guiding him along using his internet skills. Along his road trip, Spartacus has amazing adventures and meets up with zany allies. When Spartacus finally finds his mom, it isn’t the reunion he was expecting…

I REALLY got into reading this book (no, really, I got in trouble at least three times for not listening because I was reading this book). I really liked this book because of the humor, action and adventure in it. Spartacus was a good main character and likeable. He has cool talents like fire-breathing, escaping from ropes and knife throwing (all circus talents). The character I liked the most was a scary biker guy named Lloyd Loeke, a guy that Spartacus got a ride from and it turned out that even though he looked scary he was a pretty nice guy. The whole plot of the story was strange but in a good way. You never knew where Spartacus’ adventure would turn next. The book had some sad parts to the plot (mostly about Athena not being a very good mother) but it didn’t make the book overly sad, it was really more wacky than anything. When I got the request to review this book, I asked my usual “Is there any bad language, graphic violence, or any other inappropriate content for a 10 year-old” question to Ms. Johnson. She replied “There is a swear word on page 40. But that’s it–I promise.”  My mom edited the curse word out of my copy and inserted “bad word”. “Bad word” appeared 3 times on page 40 but my mom OK’d the rest of the book (thanks Ms. Johnson for the warning!). If I were to change anything about the book I would have it be completely clean so younger advanced readers could read the book. Come on Ms. Johnson! Us younger kids want good stories too!! 🙂 🙂 **I recommend the book to kids 10+ with the warning to parents about page 40!

I give the totally wacky adventure story “Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows” five out of five book worms!

To learn more about “Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows” and Ms. Johnson please visit her website HERE.

Categories: Age 12+

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33 replies

  1. Any book that gets you in trouble three times has to be good! Looking forward to reading this one 🙂

  2. I had to laugh when you said you had gotten in trouble three times while reading this book. I hadn’t thought about it in years but I used to get in trouble for not listening when I was into a good book as well! That is definitely the mark of a good book so I’m going to have to add it to my ever-growing to read list.

    This is a very good review, Erik. I particularly like that you included the bad word warning. A lot of my friends ask me to recommend books for their children to read so I like finding children’s and ya books that aren’t full of bad language.

    • I’m glad I am not the only that got in trouble for reading! I sometimes get into trouble at school for it too. 🙁

      I wish that more young adult books would be more young than adult. With this book it was just that one page. I think they should have just left it out.

      • If it was only those three times on that one page, then obviously the story could have been told without it altogether.

        And I used to get in trouble every once in a while at school too. I used to hide my book in my lap under my desk or inside my notebook and read during math (my least favorite subject ever!). Though I definitely don’t condone it! Nowadays, I read on my lunch break at work. 🙂

      • THAT’S WHAT I DO! Hide my book in my desk 😉 My teacher has to take it from me! Some days I just don’t bring a book so I don’t get in trouble.

      • LOL I had more than one book taken away too! I always take a book with me when I leave the house. And I usually have a few in the car in case I finish the one I’m reading. 🙂

  3. Sounds quirky and fun, my kind of book! (Mrs. Johnson, if you want another reviewer, you can find me at Bookworm Blather, lol!)

    I do agree about the language. Finding clean new releases sometimes feels like a treasure hunt. I would have done the same as your mom. 🙂

    Great review, Erik!

  4. Hey Erik,

    Thanks for the kind review! I used to get in trouble for reading at the table, as well as using the light from my alarm clock when I was supposed to be sleeping (not recommended for retaining your eyesight past 6th grade). Have to admit…I’m kinda happy to hear you couldn’t put it down. Not the trouble part, of course.

    And I totally understand about the language issues! I believe it was an editorial decision. I always try to let parents know ahead of time about “p. 40”, but I hope that the rest of the wacky adventures made up for it.

    Thanks again!


    • I really did enjoy the book (other than the whole getting into trouble but that happens to me a lot). My parents take my flashlight off of me at night 🙂 I think kids and grown-ups will enjoy your book. It is nice of you to warn parents about page 40!

  5. This sounds like a great book to read! Thanks — and the point you make about needing clean books for kids who are advanced readers is such a good point. Thank you.

    • Nice review Erik. Sounds like a quirky kind of book kids would have fun with. Liked your comment about finding clean books for kids who are advanced readers. I got into huge trouble as an elementary student reading a favorite book during math or science. Learned my lesson fast after the teacher called my mother. Not recommended. Must have been a great book, if you got in trouble.

      • Thank you! Last year my teacher emailed my parents three times about me reading in school. So far this year my parents haven’t been emailed but I’ve gotten into trouble a couple of times for reading 🙁 I JUST LIKE READING SOOOO MUCH!!!

    • Thank you! I am glad you like my “no bad language point”!

  6. It must have been a very good book if you got in trouble so many times! Those are the best books that keep us interested. It’s great that you gave a warning to readers about swearing.

  7. Hi Erik,

    Thank you so much for reviewing Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows. I’m the guy who published the book, and I’m thrilled to get feedback from an actual kid who has read it.

    I’m sorry that you got in trouble for being so into it, but in a way it also makes me happy that you were so engaged with the characters, plot, etc.

    About the bad word on page 40: At RainTown Press, we debated for a long time whether or not to use that word in this book. We knew we were crossing the line a little bit, but we ultimately decided to go ahead and use it because Spartacus got in (a lot of) trouble for using it, as any kid who uses this word should at this age should.

    Other than that, I wish to say you have an amazing insight, and I hope to read more of your reviews.

    I wonder if you will ever do any reviews of some more classic stories, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I’d be interested to hear your perspective on the themes in this book as a modern young reader.

    Job well done, sir. Keep up the good work.

    Cory Freeman, Publisher
    RainTown Press

    • Hi Mr. Freeman!
      Thank you for stopping by my blog! I know the book was probably meant for kids older than me but there are a lot of younger kids (like me) who really like a good story. Spartacus is a great story and I wish the swear words weren’t in there so it would be “clean” for younger kids.
      I’ve read a bunch of classics but not any of the Tom Sawyer books. I’ll give them a try!
      Thanks again!

      • Seeing Mr Freeman’s comment makes me understand more why they left the words in. And how awesome is it that a publisher just commented on your blog! You rock, Erik!

        Huckleberry Finn is one of my absolute favorite books ever. I listened to it last year, narrated by Elijah Wood (Frodo!). I would be interested in your opinion of it as well if your parents think it is appropriate for you at this age.

      • That is cool a publisher commented! I liked to read how they decided to put the word in. I’d like to know more about the publishing part of books. I still wish the word wasn’t there.
        I have to read Huckleberry Finn. My mom said that she’d probably get me the version for kids (not the original).

      • Awesome. You just have to promise me that when you get older, you’ll read the original too! 🙂

      • I do solemly promise 😉

  8. Good Job Erik! It’s nice to read kid reviews of kid books. I find they are the best. I’ll keep coming back for more.
    Keep reading, keep dreaming!
    Lisa Ard
    Author of Fright Flight, Dream Seekers Book One

  9. Getting in trouble for not listening because you’re reading sounds like a great reason to get in trouble. 😉 Thanks for another great review!


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