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Spartacus Ryan Zander and the Secrets of the Incredible

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Twelve-year-old Spartacus Zander isn't looking for trouble. He just wants people to call him by his middle name and for his family to be normal. But it's not so easy when you live in a small town with a bullying brother and gruff, hard-hearted father-- oh, and an adoring yet hugely eccentric Human-Cannonball mother. And when his mom gets kidnapped by Bartholomew's World-Renowned Circus of the Incredible and no one believes it? Yeah. That throws a wrench into things. It's up to Spartacus to be the hero. And he definitely doesn't want to be the hero.

Armed with clues from his mom's postcards and the internet-wizardry of his best friend, Eli, Spartacus sets off on a zany rescue mission to save his mom. Between destroying small town libraries, diving from slow-moving vehicles, and running from cops (of the local and clown variety), Spartacus hobnobs with felons and goths, sideshow folk and lemurs and dangerous old ladies. And as the stories about The Incredible get stranger (and Spart's enemies get weirder), he realizes the truth: The only way to bring his family back together is to bring the big top down, once and for all.

Funny and adventurous with some dark themes. Ages 8-13.

344 pages, ebook

Published August 3, 2018

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About the author

Molly Elwood

2 books22 followers
Born in Oregon’s suburbs and raised in its wild west, Molly Elwood grew up reading at the dinner table, while riding a bike, and at weddings and funerals. After getting her master’s in writing at Portland State University, she traveled the world a bit, so if anyone asked her to write about, say, hitchhiking in Ireland or the street food in China or the rats in France or the tarantulas in Panama, she’d be ready. She now lives as a copywriter and novelist in Portland, Oregon, enjoying good books and bad movies and scheming ways to get on a plane to anywhere.

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Profile Image for Rebecca B.
40 reviews7 followers
September 10, 2018
I should preface this by saying I’m not the intended audience here, but a librarian who is always on the lookout for contemporary middle grade books to recommend to young readers! This book is a great choice for those looking for something fun and zany but also grounded in the real world.

It all starts when Ryan’s mom gets stolen by the circus. Dad doesn’t believe this crackpot theory, but Bartholomew’s World-Renowned Circus of the Incredible has a reputation for being mysterious—and not necessarily in a good way—so Ryan knows his mom’s in trouble.

He makes a daring plan to get her back that relies on his big brother’s help, but has to rethink things when his brother humiliates him in front of the entire town. With his best friend Eli away at computer camp, Ryan’s forced to wing it alone in a cross country adventure to save his mom and put his family back together. Along the way he winds up accidentally hitching rides with a chicken truck (look, it could happen to anyone), a large and oddly empathetic biker dude (who may or may not be a serial killer), a beautiful big-rig trucker, and a group of grisly goths. With Eli remotely coordinating his efforts, Ryan makes his way toward Albuquerque, where Bartholomew’s circus is scheduled to appear. Meanwhile, his face is on missing posters and he’s being hunted by librarians and the law. When he finally gets to Albuquerque, Ryan encounters slighted sideshow performers, evidence of his own involvement in a recent art heist, and further begins to uncover the big mystery at the circus’s center.

Spartacus Ryan Zander’s story is one about family, love, and acceptance. Readers will root for Ryan even as they squirm through some of his more uncomfortable encounters. All in all, this is one wicked fun and wild ride.
1 review
August 20, 2018
Spartacus Ryan Zander and the Secrets of the Incredible is a delight for both young readers and adults alike. With funny characters, fast-paced action, and clowns with bad intentions, what’s not to love?
Profile Image for Glenn Miller.
Author 2 books5 followers
September 15, 2018
Spartacus rocks! From start to finish, I was rooting for this spunky, awkward kid with the unfortunately placed freckle. The story is classic adventure with modern twists, featuring quirky characters and suburban family drama. It's all set against a truly unique American landscape; as Spartacus searches for his mother, he tangles with a mysterious circus and travels by tractor-trailer, motorcycle, and chicken truck. The story is both heartbreaking and hilarious -- a combination that will leave readers laughing, crying, and undeniably satisfied.
Profile Image for Marcia.
Author 3 books26 followers
August 13, 2018
What a fun read! Spartacus Zander is on the run and will do anything to catch up with his kidnapped mom, even if it means getting chased by clowns and taking on the entire big top. If you like quirky characters, circus shenanigans, and fast-paced adventure, you're sure to love Spartacus Ryan Zander and the Secrets of the Incredible!
Profile Image for Chasty.
164 reviews15 followers
September 21, 2018
This story was good the first round and it us still good. I love Spartacus and my heart broke over him learning the truth. A great read about a circus gone rogue and a special hero. Thank you Molly for the chance to re-read this lovely story.
1 review
March 10, 2019
(This review is from my 10-year-old daughter): This book had lots of action and suspense. I think that it's a good book!
Profile Image for Greg Andree.
34 reviews1 follower
November 10, 2018
(review by 11yo Novalee)

This. Book. Was. Incredible. Ok, you may be thinking why should you trust a random eleven year old, but I swear to you, on my honor, that I am not lying. This book has mystic, lonely, sad, but also funny feelings that run deeper than you would probably expect.
Lets just look at the name first. Spartacus Ryan Zander and the Secrets of the Incredible. This name is so on point in a way that people may not see. The basic plot is that one day when he and his brother came home, they found their house trashed and their mother gone. They later learned that she had been recruited by a circus, but Spartacus remains sure that she has been kidnapped and he is determined to get her back. There are many deep secrets involved, pointing in all directions, and yet the end result is something you probably will not have expected. (The ending did make me cry, yes, it actually did.)
Okay, aside from the crying, this story was actually pretty funny. I mean, the actual plot was his mom joining the circus that is rumored to carry dark magic. And the strangest people help him along the way to his mom, like...Lloyd the “murderer,” Haily the runaway, and, the most...odd, Blue and White the criminals. (I won’t spoil it all, but be ready to cry and laugh at the same time).
Finally, I love that Spartacus seems relatable.(I don’t mean the circus thing, though. Not many people can relate to that.) What I mean are his emotions. He has to deal with a mean older sibling, a dad who he was never close to, a mom who they have no contact with, and everything in between. He’s...lets say going through a lot, and the fact that you feel as though you are experiencing this with him is what ties the story together. So, I highly recommend you to read. This. Book.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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