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The Circus of Stolen Dreams

The Circus of Stolen Dreams

by Lorelei Savaryn


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A dream world turns haunting nightmare in this spellbinding debut novel, perfect for fans of Circus Mirandus and The Night Gardener.

After Andrea's brother, Francis, disappeared, everything changed. Her world turned upside down, and there was nothing she could do to right it. So when she discovers a magical dream world called Reverie in the woods near her home, Andrea jumps at the chance to escape her pain and go inside. But the cost of admission is high: Andrea must give up a memory in order to enter. And she knows exactly which memory she'd like to give up.

Once inside, Andrea discovers tent after tent of dreams come alive; she can fly on a gust of wind, brave swashbuckling pirates and search for buried treasure, reach for--and wish on--a tangible star, and much, much more. But Andrea soon realizes that not all of Reverie's dreams are meant to delight, and the Sandman behind the circus tents seems to have plans of his own. When Andrea finds a tent in which her brother's darkest nightmare has been brought to life, she realizes the dark truth: Reverie is not an escape; it's a trap.

Will Andrea and her new friend Penny have what it takes to find Francis, figure out what's really going on in Reverie, and break free from this nightmarish dream world?

A wonderfully inventive, deliciously creepy debut novel that is sure to linger in readers' minds long after the last thrilling page has been turned.

Praise for The Circus of Stolen Dreams:

* "Savaryn's unconventional story makes for a bewitching debut, filled with dazzling descriptions and real surprises." --Booklist, *STARRED REVIEW*

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593202074
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 11/16/2021
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 410,231
Product dimensions: 5.06(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.83(d)
Lexile: 860L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 13 Years

About the Author

Lorelei Savaryn (loreleisavaryn.com) is an author of creepy, magical stories for children. She holds a BA in creative writing and is a former elementary teacher and instructional coach. When she isn't writing, she spends her time amidst the beautiful chaos of life with her husband and four children outside of Chicago. You can follow her on Twitter @LoreleiSavaryn.

Read an Excerpt

Andrea drew in one long, deep breath, letting the calm of the forest at nightfall weave its way through her. Her heart, mind, and pace slowed, until she became as still and quiet as the stars that hung above her head. 

She hopped off her bike and propped the kickstand, then cast her gaze around the woods, landing on a soft column of glow. The moon had shifted its unforgiving spotlight off her and onto a gnarled old tree near the path, rough and widened with age. Its knobby limbs twisted upward like fingers, bending to the sky. On its wrist-like trunk hung a single piece of parchment, fluttering as if desperate to break free.

Fresh-fallen leaves crunched under Andrea’s sneakers as she moved toward the tree. Her mind flashed back to the flyers for her brother they had plastered up all around town within hours of finding him gone, stapling his picture to poles and taping it to shopwindows. His face flashed nightly on the news, and in online searches beneath the word Missing and a phone number for the police. Andrea half expected this to be another one. A poster of Francis that had somehow survived three years of winters and spring rains, that had lasted long past when the neighbors stopped dropping casseroles off at the door and the news vans found other stories to tell. She paused, her shoes sinking into the soft, damp earth.

If it was Francis’s face, faded and mottled with age, she didn’t want to see it.

A sudden, cool breeze kicked up around her, sending branches bowing sideways. The poster tore free from the tree and flew, looping over and over in the air before sticking itself to Andrea’s face, unwilling to be ignored. Andrea clawed at the paper, pulling it from her nose and cheeks. The wind died down to nothing and the woods hushed as Andrea took a reluctant peek at what she now held in her hands.

Thick and yellowed and curled in at the edges, the paper had the appearance of age, as if it had hung there for a hundred years or more. It shimmered gold, then silver, depending on which way the moonlight hit. Elaborate scrolling words framed the top and bottom of an image of sweeping striped circus tents surrounded by a sky full of twinkling stars.

"Land of Dreams"
Come and join us,
come away.
Forget your troubles,
come and play.

Andrea covered her mouth with her hand as she lingered on a single phrase. Forget your troubles. She had tried so many things to help her deal with what had happened, like riding fast on her bike, or throwing herself into schoolwork, or sitting on a couch playing card games with Dr. Tammy, who asked too many questions and acted like they were friends.

The boxes in the garage had helped her deal with it, too. As long as the boxes sat there, Andrea was free to secretly dream that one day her brother might return home, somehow. She imagined her parents kept the boxes because they harbored a quiet faith, too. But now that her parents were giving away all of Francis’s things, the final, unspoken hope the boxes represented floated away into the night sky, leaving her as empty as the corner in the garage would be once they were gone.

This was what she needed right now—to escape the pain. If it was possible, if the poster was real and she could actually forget her troubles, even for a little while, Andrea would accept the offer in a heartbeat.

Another breeze blew by, lifting leaves off the ground and swirling them around Andrea and the poster and the tree, ripping the poster from her fingers and sending it into the night sky.

The scent of pine needles and decaying leaves and the soil after a storm wasn’t a surprise—Andrea was used to the smells of the forest from exploring and biking through them for so many years. But this tickling wind brought with it an aroma that belonged at the county fair instead of tucked away in the woods. Cotton candy and cinnamon. Nearly burnt caramel and crisp, red apples. Fresh-popped corn.

Whatever this was, something was happening. Something big. A pinprick of hope leapt up in Andrea’s stomach as the moon lent a hypnotic yellow-green illumination to the wooded path ahead. She grabbed the handlebars of her bike and walked forward, following the moonlight up a hill and to theedge of the abandoned field.

But it wasn’t abandoned anymore.

Andrea gasped, eyes wide, and dropped her bike to the dirt.

A wrought iron fence encircled the field. At the top of the fence, the tips of the posts splayed in every direction and a pointed star adorned the end of each, like hundreds of starbursts stretching to the sky. The fence culminated in a tall iron gate next to where Andrea stood. The iron twisted into a pattern of stars and one crescent moon, smiling like he kept a secret. Worked into the iron, over the gate in scrolling, glittering metal, was the word Reverie. And under it, in slightly smaller print: Land of Dreams.

The very air surrounding Reverie pulled her in, drew her to it like a magnet. She couldn’t help but wonder if the circus had somehow sought her out and placed itself right where she would find it, though of course it was a silly thought. Circuses traveled from town to town, but not solely for the benefit of one single girl.

Andrea walked forward with cautious, measured steps until she reached the gate, a spark of energy taking hold inside her chest. Clutching clammy hands around the spindling metal, she peered through to what was inside, barely daring to blink as she took it all in.

Behind the gate, the world of Reverie buzzed with movement, with light. With people laughing, smiling, and eating cotton candy saturated with wild colors off striped sticks. Andrea pressed her forehead against the cold fence and squinted her eyes.

There was something . . . different about the crowd roaming inside the fence—people as young as three with bouncing, curly hair and others who were long and gangly-limbed and well into their teens. The group of revelers was built out of not just people but children. Only children. Not a single adult in sight.

Children ran and skipped through a long fairway lined with bright shops that led away from the gate. The windows of each shop bore large signs that promised an assortment of delectable treats. A pink-and-yellow storefront offered magical lollipops that had the power to make you dizzy in the best of ways. Another, right next to it, painted black as night, offered poisoned apples meant to turn the stomach of an enemy. Another, built of scrap wood, sold oddities—ground unicorn horn, bottled color extracted from rainbows, fossilized fairy wings. Andrea’s grip tightened on the fence as her mind hummed, imagining what other wonders the rest of the shops would claim to hold.

Surrounding the fairway and spreading out in all directions stood a seemingly endless array of tents. More tent tops spread to the horizon than should fit in the fenced-in space or within the bounds of the field. All striped the same color, alternating glittering-star bright and midnight blue, each tent drew gracefully upward to a single peak. At the topmost point of each waved a pennant flag, striped just the same.

Andrea pinched her arm, pulling the skin tight between her thumb and finger. If she was dreaming, she wouldn’t feel an ounce of sting. She had done it dozens of times over the past three years—even pinching herself over and over again in the weeks after Francis disappeared. She had hoped she’d one day discover she’d only been trapped in a terrible, horrible dream and that when she woke up, she’d find Francis, sleeping and safe on the bottom bunk. But each and every time it hurt, and she had to realize anew that the nightmare of losing him had been—was still—real.

Now, standing outside Reverie’s gates, the stinging of her skin more than answered her question. This place seemed almost impossible. Yet here it was, drawing her to it with the promise of forgetting, as real as anything she’d ever seen.

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