Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes. Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future.
“Hope is a Ferris wheel, because you can be far away from something, really wanting it, and the wheel can bring you closer. And sometimes you can step right off, but sometimes the wheel doesn’t stop spinning, and you keep moving around and around in a circle. But you never lose sight of what you want.”
Hope Is A Ferris Wheel is an absolutely charming, yet incredibly honest, read. I was worried at first that it would be a bit too young for me (“heavenly donuts!” is an expression that the main character uses, after all), but Star’s sweet naiveté quickly won me over.
Star’s voice was incredibly authentic. She’s innocent, witty, and many of the things that she said (or, in the case of her vocabulary sentences, wrote) reminded me a lot of the children that I used to babysit. It isn’t easy being the new kid at school, especially if you don’t conform to their idea of “normal,” but Star showed remarkable resilience, determination, and optimism in spite of that. I also really liked Star’s relationship with her sister, Winter; they both love, respect, and rely on one another, despite their age differences.
Despite it’s light and humourous tone, Hope is a Ferris Wheeltouches on quite a number of heavy topics. There was one scene, in particular, that I was definitely not expecting… though, in retrospect, there was enough foreshadowing that I really shouldn’t have been surprised. These scenes completely broke my heart, as the heaviness was both alleviated and compounded by the fact that it was told through the eyes of a ten year old.
My favourite portion of the story, though, involves the poetry club that Star starts. I fully believe that there is a song, story, or poem for every moment, so I loved seeing how one poem could make such a difference in Star’s life. It generated so many wonderful, thought-provoking discussions, and I especially loved reading all of the metaphors about hope that they came up with.
Overall, Hope Is A Ferris Wheel was a charming, thought-provoking read. If I were a middle grade teacher, this would definitely find its way onto my class reading list.