A boy’s dream of being a circus ring master turns into a magical book
Micheál Brett’s first book features a dog who was inspired by his support worker’s pet
Micheál Brett, author of Micheál and the Magical Circus which was inspired by the shows he put on as a child and the farm animals around his home as he grew up. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Pages from Micheál and the Magical Circus.
Micheál Brett laughs a little nervously as he explains his children’s book Micheál and the Magical Circus came about because he always wanted to be a ringmaster in his own circus.
Sipping coffee in Athlone Town Centre, a few weeks short of his 23rd birthday, he describes how, as a child he had a “circus mat” with a star emblazoned on it. He would lay it out at home, putting on shows for his family. Like the character in the book, he pestered everyone to help him become a ring master.
But he was just a boy. A boy with intellectual challenges. When Brett became an adult he realised being a ringmaster was probably not going to happen. So he did the next best thing: he wrote a children’s book about his dream of owning a circus.
Lavishly illustrated by local artist Sara Brennan and printed by Athlone’s Temple Printing, Micheál and the Magical Circus was inspired by the shows he put on as a child and an active imagination fostered by the farm animals and fields around his home as he grew up.
The book features “magnificent Johnny” and his dog Miley Moo – who Brett says was inspired by Miley, the dog of his support worker Louise Kenny.
Kenny works for the Midlands-based Muiriosa Foundation which provides Brett with 65 hours of support a week, visiting him in his independently rented flat and helping with his projects. His mum Di helps him with his craft work including Christmas decorations such as Yuletide logs, which he makes and gift wraps, adding model birds and battery operated lights, throughout the year. He sells them in the run-up to Christmas, at markets around Athlone.
Brett says putting the story together was not difficult and he is looking forward to his next one – a comment which brings a laugh from Kenny. “Let’s get this one finished first,” she says, going on to explain Micheál and the Magical Circus is currently being reprinted. The print run is 500 copies, twice the original one.
They might even do more, Brett says, and again mentions a second book, perhaps a sequel.
“We might just have break first,” laughs Kenny who nevertheless says it is a possibility.
The Muiriosa Foundation’s Person Centred Wing which delivers Brett’s support was set up in 2009 to work alongside people using the Muiriosa Foundation and their families so as to “figure out what a full and inclusive lifestyle would look like”, according to the foundation.
Operating across seven counties in the Midlands, the approach is to focuses on individual needs so people get the opportunity to create the life they want for themselves. “What people want is usually very ordinary but seen as extraordinary if you have a disability,” the foundation says.
Its experience is that what most of the people it supports want are a circle of friends that includes people who do not have disabilities; being homeowners; being active club members; and doing work placements and paid jobs.
Since the book was published Brett has become a bit of a celebrity – with a book launch in Athlone, book signing, and articles in the local press. There has even been a puppet show of the magical circus and guests were entertained by storyteller Paul Timoney. “It is very busy,” he says.
Micheál and the Magical Circus is available from the Bastion Gallery, Athlone; Celtic Roots Studio, Ballinahown, Co Westmeath, or from online store Etsy (€8), using the title Micheál and the Magical Circus or the identifier “mblimited”. The website describes it a “ mesmerising rhythmic tale of a young boy who dreams of becoming a ringmaster [and] receives the best birthday present allowing him experience the most magical journey of his life. A tale to be shared with all those special little people in your life.”