Perfect for a Middle Grade Classroom
I don't tend to enjoy nonfiction, so I love it when an author takes the time to do excellent research and then composes a work of fiction that is readable, enjoyable, and accurate. Kristin Tubb has done just that with her middle-grade novel "Selling Hope," based on the passing of Halley's Comet in 1910.
Hope McDaniels is a thirteen-year-old girl who is the magician's assistant in her father's act on the minor vaudeville circuit. As the troupe heads toward Chicago, the McDaniels's former home town, Hope gets the sense that her father is about to be fired. To prepare for this eventuality, Hope hatches a plan that will allow her to save up money so that she can convince her dad to settle down in the city where she last had a real home. Hope decides to take advantage of people's fear of the comet and sell "anti-comet" pills. She enlists the help of Buster Keaton (who really was a vaudeville performer in 1910) and their age-appropriate romance adds a little spark that tween readers will enjoy.
With historical accuracy -- chapter titles are even taken from real 1910 headlines -- Kristin Tubb weaves a lovely story of a girl who has had to grow up fast, but who dreams of a "normal" life.
Incredibly well written
Age appropriate romance
Its May 1910, and Halleys Comet is due to pass thru the Earths atmosphere. And thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father are due to pass through their hometown of Chicago with their ragtag vaudeville troupe. Hope wants out of vaudeville, and longs for a normal lifeor as normal as life can be without her mother, who died five years before. Hope sees an opportunity: She invents anti-comet pills to sell to the working-class customers desperate for protection. Soon, shes joined by a fellow troupe member, young Buster Keaton, and the two of them start to make good money. And just when Hope thinks she has all the answers, she has to decide: What is family? Where is home?
I LOVED THIS BOOK.
Not only is Hope's voice charming, quirky and mischievous, not only is her emotional arc captivating, and not only do I have a ginormous crush on Buster Keaton now - but Kristen O'Donnell Tubb could teach a class on how to write a historical novel that is both informative and entertaining.
Her writing style is brisk and tight, and the story never slows. The reader is immediately emotionally invested in Hope and her destiny. Her father is painted perfectly, the bumbling magician with more on his mind than his daughter. The rest of the carnival participants are not caricatures, which would have been easy, but living, breathing, jump-off-the-page human beings.
This is a rare breed of novel - it tugs at your emotions, it makes you think, and it exposes you to a segment of American history not usually explored in text books.
A great resource for teachers, librarians and students, as well as just a darn good story. I expect SELLING HOPE has a future as a classic!
Can I give it more than five stars? ;)