FINNIGAN, his best “circus mice” pals Maximillian and Leroy, and Boomer—the strangely silent family dog—return in this sequel to the award-winning FINNIGAN THE CIRCUS CAT. Rescued as a tiny kitten by eight-year-old Lucy Farnsworth and smuggled in secret to the family circus museum, Finnigan is now all grown up with a natural flair for the flying trapeze. However he’s still flying “under the radar” in the barn which doubles as the museum because Lucy’s father is deathly allergic to cats.
The arrangement works just fine for everyone…until two shady characters show up with plans to find and steal a treasure that’s hidden in a broken down old wagon recently dropped off at the museum. While Finnigan and his friends set themselves to the task of finding the treasure first and scaring off the crooks, they find it’s becoming harder and harder to keep Finnigan’s presence a secret, particularly where Lucy’s sharp-eyed little brother is concerned. And to top things off, Leroy must swallow his pride and misgivings to go undercover as a rat to discover more about the unsavory strangers!
Inspired by a real life “rescue kitten” and filled with narrow escapes, sleight of hand (or tails, as the case may be), charming illustrations by the author, and circus history from the Golden Age of circus parades, FINNIGAN AND THE LOST CIRCUS WAGON will charm cat lovers, circus fans, young readers and the grownups who love to read with them.
5 STARS!! I am a huge fan of Finnigan the Circus Cat but because of that, I worried Finnigan and the lost Circus Wagon might be something of a disappointment. I’m delighted to say that is definitely not the case. This time when a broken-down old circus wagon arrives at the Farnsworth Circus Museum, it is quickly followed by a pair of con artists and their pet rat, Socrates. What follows is a fun-filled tale of ghostly goings on, lost treasure and quick thinking by Finnigan and his two mice pals, Maximillian and Leroy. If you loved Finnigan the Circus Cat, you will not want to miss this second story of the three lovable friends. Personally, I can’t wait for book number three!
5 STARS! My kids were so excited to read another book about Finnigan, Max, and Leroy! While book 1 introduced us to this group of quirky and lovable characters, book 2 brings more hilarious shenanigans, and also a mystery to solve that kept my kids even more involved and eager to guess what would happen next. Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon is a great read-aloud book for parents and kids to enjoy together, and would be a wonderful choice for readers who are venturing into reading chapter books on their own. We love this series, and will be eagerly awaiting the next volume in this wonderful series.
What a charming book! Told from a mouse's point of view, it is the story of two mice and a cat who smell a rat when con-men come calling and work together to find the treasure, foil the bad guys, and protect their humans. Young readers may not notice, but along the way, they're being taught a few life lessons--that traditional enemies can be friends; family and friends are the real jewels in life; and while romantic adventures (a young couple eloping with a circus tiger!) might sound exciting, simple pleasures (like bedtime stories and unexpected leftover cake crumbs) are better. The author is doubly-talented--she can not only write a great story, but the illustrations are beautiful. This book, together with the first in the series, would make a great gift for any younger elementary-age child.
Maybe it is because I grew up with the sounds of the circus in my own backyard (Baraboo Wi – home of the Circus World Museum) – but it appears that with this latest chapter of Finnegan the Circus Cat - Mary T. Wagner has managed to bring to life all the mystery and magic that the sound of the daily calliope concerts always promised. Through her writing I was transported to the dusty old Barn in Beechville as clever mouse Max and his always hungry cousin, Leroy, team up with the talented and handsome Finnegan, to pull off the defeat of a dastardly caper rooted in a decades old circus romance. I am not saying that villains, Wally and Clyde, are quite as evil as the goons in Home Alone, but their vanquishment was every bit as complete. And perhaps the efforts of the furry heroes all the more admirable given the need to conceal their existence from human eyes while demonstrating unimaginable talent and moxy. Yep, as the title of the first chapter announces, there is prestidigitation in the air! And honestly, who wouldn’t want to hear a story that includes an unknowing accomplice name Socrates – the rat. This is a thrilling children’s tale, safe for any child old enough to love a kitten. The suspense is so real you really won’t want to quit reading, whether you are sharing it with the kids, or savoring it alone, over tea and a second piece of sour crème chocolate cake.
In addition to the story itself, this book has the added charm of the author’s own illustrations that harken back to a time when books were a primary source of entertainment. Each drawing offers a glimpse of the action to come and help the reader to imagine the colorful world of circus wagons and sawdust through the eyes of narrator mouse. With all that it has to offer, this is a book that you will want to reach for again, and again at story time.
I so look forward to future installments when I am quite sure that baby Donovan will finally spill the beans about the kitten in residence, and when Shirley, a mother wily enough to conceal her early mid-snack time, will reveal that she has always known why her only daughter disappears every night for a visit to the barn.
Fans of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web will love this children’s story, illustrated with beautufiul pen and ink drawings and set on a farm that was once a circus museum. Its hero is Finnegan, an intrepid striped cat rescued as a tiny kitten and raised to cathood by a pair of kindly mice. They all live secretly in the Farnsworth family’s barn, which houses magnificent old circus wagons. When two grifters attempt to rob the place, Finnegan and his mouse friends Max and Leroy must use their wits and acrobatic skills to stop them. The story rattles along at an exciting pace, enlivened by circus lore: the tiger who rode atop a circus wagon, the curse of the chimpanzees, the lion tamer who had an unfortunate run-in with sneezing powder. Laced with humor and framed in an unusual setting, Finnegan and the Lost Circus Wagon is as appealing as a bag of warm peanuts and as colorful as cotton candy. Kids of all ages will enjoy it. Hopefully, we’ll see more Finnegan in the future.
5 Stars!! Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon: Finnigan the Circus Cat, Book Two is a novel about animals for children and preteens written and illustrated by Mary T. Wagner. While this is the second book in the series, Wagner gives enough background information in the story to allow it to be read on its own. Finnigan was a tiny kitten when young Lucy Farnsworth smuggled him into the family’s barn. Her father was allergic to cats, but she figured maybe, just maybe, he’d never know that Finnigan was in there at all. Lucy and her family were the newest Farnsworths to inhabit the family house and operate the Farnsworth Circus Museum. It had been started by Old Man Farnsworth who had been a circus clown before he retired. His efforts in restoring the circus wagons and props he kept in his barn had been overseen by generations of circus mice, the most recent being Maximilian and his cousin, Leroy. The two mice also took it on themselves to raise little Finnigan, and life in the Museum was simple and uncomplicated until a tractor came by with an old and rather decrepit wagon that smelt strongly of chickens. There was something special about this wagon, but the three best friends couldn’t figure it out.
Mary T. Wagner’s Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon is a fanciful and entertaining story which might just have you thinking about mice, particularly circus mice, in an entirely different way. Wagner’s characters are marvelous! I loved the bantering that Max and his somewhat portly cousin, Leroy, engage in, and watching as Finnigan recreates acrobatic feats using his prehensile tail is great fun indeed. The mystery of the lost circus wagon is clever and enthralling, and even gives the reader a bit of circus history along with the puzzle. What will Max, Leroy and Finnigan get involved with next? I was pleased to discover that there’s soon to be a third book in the series, entitled Finnigan The Lionhearted, and am looking forward to reading it. Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon: Finnigan the Circus Cat, Book Two is most highly recommended.
The Baraboo News Republic (the newspaper for Baraboo, WI which is where the Ringling Brothers Circus got its start) did a lovely front-page feature about my Finnigan the Circus Cat books and the inspiration I've drawn from the Circus World Museum in Baraboo for both the storylines and the illustrations.
I’m not quite sure where my enchantment with old circus wagons got its start.
I’ve always been a fan of the old more so than the new—perhaps a side effect of having a godmother who specialized in teaching Modern European History and who took me along as a child to movies about Napoleon defeat at Waterloo, and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Or perhaps it was a result of reading my way through childhood, with plenty of fairy tales populated by knights and dragons, along with Greek myths and their panoply of magical creatures.
Whatever the cause, I knew almost from the minute I thought of creating a series of children’s books about a cat in a small town circus museum, that one of the stories would weave a mysterious and old circus wagon into the plot. And so the second Finnigan book became, quite naturally, “Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon.” The plot revolves around the arrival at the little museum that has become his home of a decrepit wagon that has seen better days, but holds a valuable secret. In the course of the story, crooks must be outwitted, the mystery must be solved, and Finnigan’s presence must remain a secret to the humans in the story.
But here I want to share my utter fascination with these wagons, which harken back to the Golden Age of circus parades. Imagine, if you will, a time before television, before MTV, before the Internet! Back in the day, before we had the world at our fingertips with our smart phones and tablets, everybody turned out to watch the circus parade that heralded the wonders to be found under the Big Top that had just arrived. But it wasn’t just the panoply of the performers and the clowns and the exotic animals that drew the eye. The wagons that doubled as bandwagons and storage wagons and animal cages were a theatrical art form of their own.
And to find out more, AND see photos of the most SPECTACTULAR vintage circus wagons, follow the link to the March of Time Books blog below!!
I’ve been discovering a great many things in the past couple of years as I’ve been getting more and more acquainted with my “inner child.”
For one thing, I believe I’m going to take up drawing again with pencils and pastel chalks for the first time in decades. For another, that inner child seems to have taken the form of a wise-ass mouse.
Ah, the things we don’t see coming when we just drop the reins or the steering wheel and just let life happen!
This unexpected journey to the past began a few years ago, when I set out to write my first children’s chapter book, “Finnigan the Circus Cat.” Up until then, I had done a lot of writing in my life for a lot of different audiences—newspapers, magazine, courts of law ranging from trial courts all the way to SCOTUS, and of course, essays about life for my Running with Stilettos blog and others. The one thing they had in common was that they were all written for grownups.
But the combination of a rescue kitten named Finnigan in the family and a daughter who is a contemporary circus aerialist combined to spark the germ of an idea for the Finnigan book. There were plenty of interruptions after I first put pen to paper, close to two years of them in fact! Most of the interruptions related to putting my empty nest up for sale and then moving, lock, stock and barrel, for the first time in three decades.
When I sat down to write the tale itself, however, it nearly wrote itself. The book—the series in fact—revolves around the arrival of a foundling kitten at a small-town circus museum, and is told through the voice of one of the two “circus mice” cousins who befriend the kitten and take him under their wing. At the time I didn’t stop to think why it felt so natural. Did I mention that the mouse doing the narrating is something of a wiseacre?
The hard part of the book was something I hadn’t planned on at all, and that was drawing the pictures that start each of the chapters. A lot of crazy last-minute stuff went into that decision, including the strong encouragement of a good friend who’s quite free with the “I know you can do this!” attitude. But after the first 24 hours of pushing back and saying “no, I can’t,” I remembered that I’d drawn horses obsessively—and very well—when I was growing up, and figured that I could likely make it work for drawing a kitten, two mice, and a friendly Golden Retriever. At least just for the first book. Or so I told myself.
Between when the first book was finished and the second book started, yet another trip down memory lane opened some more windows into the dusty recesses of my past. And that happened when a group of folks I had gone through grade school with in Chicago lo these many years ago connected on Facebook, and suddenly an informal class reunion was in the works. We finally gathered at an upscale bowling alley (kind of like the Taj Mahal of the lanes) on the outskirts of Chicago, and spent the next few hours sharing hugs and life stories and drinks and good wishes. Many of us hadn’t seen each other in 45 years. And even if we hadn’t been particularly close friends back in the day, by this age we were so darned happy to still be upright and walking under our own steam that hugs and smiles flowed non-stop.
There was something so wonderfully liberating and simply joyous to reunite with those people who we knew as children. Before the posturing and jostling and stratification of high school roles. Before the race through college and internships and work study programs toward a job or a career. Before the responsibilities of families, or the heartbreaks of divorce or other breakups, or worries about health or livelihoods or mortgage payments, and bills from the veterinarian and the auto repair shop. And so as a result I began to remember more of my childhood, and more of what I had done and what I had enjoyed back when the universe was still relatively new and the horizon relatively uncomplicated.
And then I wrote the second Finnigan book, and drew even more pictures this time, and went all out on some of them, really “upping my game” in terms of complexity and detail that I poured into the sketches.
And when I finally finished the second book, I realized that the distinctive voice telling these stories wasn’t simply a fictional character I’d invented out of thin air, a persona I’d deliberately created as a means to an end. The reality was so much more fun than that!
No, Maximillian the circus mouse, the guy with an answer for everything, the guy with the lightning-quick sense of humor and a sarcastic streak a mile wide, was pretty much me as a ten year old. It just took me a while to remember her.
No wonder the words came out so easily! After a lifetime spent as a “responsible adult,” trying to live up to the virtues (or demands!) of “maturity” and “decorum” and “patience” and “reliability,” it is a thoroughly freeing experience to just crack the door open in my mind, and let that mouse sneak out and say whatever pops into his unfiltered head!
It won’t be long before I start writing the third book in the series. This one will take place in a traveling tent circus, and so I’ll have all the fun of imagining the circus through the eyes of a wiseacre mouse…or a ten year old girl.
And in the meantime, I’ve begun noodling around the idea of taking drawing classes…and then possibly painting classes. After years of branding myself as a photographer in my local arts community, I’d like to finally push the envelope and take a few artistic risks that I was too afraid to take when I was a kid because I never wanted to make any mistakes.
I have so many people and things to thank for this new approach to art and life. Finnigan, of course. My daughter. My friend who pushed and said “yes you can!” when I thought “no I can’t!”
But I’d also like to give a shout-out to Maximillian the “circus mouse.” He may be tiny, and a smartass from the get-go, and thoroughly imaginary, existing only on the printed page. But writing his character has given me the chance to finally remember—and reconnect with—the young girl I once was, and to give us both another chance to shine.