Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish


Children's fiction


Before he came to Zarconi’s, Gus didn’t even know he had grandparents, let alone ones who juggled knives and ate fire. Now he’s caught up in their world of magicians, stilt-walkers, tattooed tenthands, elephant turds – and there’s a snake-girl who might become his best friend or his worst enemy. But why is everyone so secretive about Gus’s family? Why won’t they let him on the trapeze? Is it true that Zarconi’s is cursed?

A fast-moving story of discovery, change and identity with all the drama of life under the big top.

Thousands of children around the world work in family circuses. Many of Gus and Effie’s adventures in Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish are based on the true stories of child circus performers.

Australia has a long circus history full of amazing yarns. Many people don’t realize that Australia also has the highest number of circuses per person in the world. Circuses played an important part in the development of Australia and were often the only form of entertainment for people living in isolated areas. For all Australians, circus magic is fixed deep inside our collective memory.




  • Western Australian Premier's Book Awards 2000 – Winner – Children’s Book Award

Reviews of Zarconi’s Magic Flying Fish

  • Murray has given us a convincing slice of reality, with depth and insight into a boy on the cusp of adolescence, against the magical backdrop of a circus. Zarconi's Magic Flying Fish has tension, mystery, poignancy and is a rattling good yarn.
    Stella Lees Viewpoint
  • "...vividly drawn... with stand-out scenes that linger in the mind. A gutsy novel for readers aged 9-12."
    Kerry White Australian Bookseller & Publisher
  • Zarconi's Magic Flying Fish is a dramatic Australian novel about circus life, containing likeable characters, a finely modulated sentimentality and dialogue that uses the odd expletive in a perfectly acceptable way.

    Michael Thorn Times Educational Supplement, UK
  • The narrative moves at a great pace as Gus's genealogical past is gradually revealed. The relationships between the characters, particularly Gus and Effie, are well drawn, as are the Western Australian settings.
    Full of magic, mystery, and a delightful elephant, the story is meant for wide-eyed older children.

    Judges Comments Western Australian Book Awards 2000

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