It’s May 1910, and Halley’s Comet is due to pass thru the Earth’s 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” life—or 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, she’s 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? (goodreads summary)
Hope McDaniel is the daughter of a magician whose act is showcased on the 1900's Vaudeville scene and helps as his assistant. Her only hope is to leave it behind to lead a normal life having enough money to find a place to live and stay in Chicago. A place where she grew up until she was eight years old but left to travel the small circuit with her father, Nick. The Chicago city people are terrified that when the earth passes through the comets tail in May, "gases will fill the heavens" and destroy all mankind. This story is the countdown to that day approaching. Sparking an idea to capitalize on the citizens fears to earn the money she desperately needs for her and her father to move on, she devises a plan to make and peddle anti-comet pills in a nearby local alley. She enlists the help of Buster Keaton who seems to be as saavy on the idea as she is and they make for a profitable pair. This wonderful historical fiction was exciting as well as an entertaining treat. Hope is very grown up and street wise for her age. Being placed in an adult world in 1910, how could I expect her character to not be. I found all the characters believeable in an eccentric and old vaudeville kind of way. I easily pictured the troupe manager, Mr. Whitting, being as greasy and greedy as they come. The depicted living in the rundown boarding houses, Vaudeville Troupes riding the rails and old Chicago alleys placed me in an era I can only read about but still made me feel like I was there. I also enjoyed the time period quick wit and slang that was so fitting of the 1900's. Some words and phrases I had to stop and think about. I don't know if kids would do the same or skim past it. When Hope sold her anti-comet pills, she never looked her "coins"(customers) in the eyes. Hope's character had heart and soul which also gave her a conscience about right and wrong. Each chapter also had an original newspaper headline from the days in May while the countdown of the comet was to arrive. It is unimaginable to think that people were so panicked and overwhelmed by the anticipation of the comets arrival and its unknown affects to the earth. There are several themes to this story and strong bonds of family and friendship. At the end, the author added an informative note about Halley's Comet and the characters that were actually real people portrayed in her book. She also included a recommended reading list for learning more about item information found in the book. Once again, I walked away feeling that I learned quite a bit from another well written historical fiction novel. I think this would be a "just right book" for grades 5-8 or ages 11 and up.~
Title: Selling Hope
Author: Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: November 2010, Feiwel and Friends
Hardcover, 215 pgs.