Monday, September 8, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL by Robin Herrera (with Interview and Giveaway)

HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL by Robin Herrera (Amulet Books, March 2014)

What It's About (from Goodreads):
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.

Opening Lines: "Everyone at Pepperwood Elementary knows that I live in Treasure Trailers, in the pink-tinted trailer with the flamingo hot-glued to the roof. The problem is, I only told four girls, the ones who were standing by me the first time we lined up for recess."

Why I liked it: Well, the shocking thing is that I haven't blogged since early August (Don, forgive me!), and now that I'm back in business I'm featuring a novel by another Portland writer I know in real life. So, hooray for Portland!

Robin Herrera is a bona fide hoot, and her debut doesn't disappoint--from the fabulous cover, to the comedy woven through every chapter.

Star Mackie is an unforgettable character: honest, intelligent, and determined. Robin Herrera has given her a pitch-perfect middle grade voice, and the friendship she develops with some of the school's other oddballs is delightful. I also liked Star's "Vocabulary Sentences," which are sprinkled throughout and are very funny. (Star writes answers at length, but doesn't turn the work in to her teacher.)

Plus, Emily Dickinson is heavily featured, and there are poems mentioned throughout.

And don't forget donuts. They also make appearances, and in my experience any books with doughnuts is a true gem.

I shot Robin off my typical Mafioso questions, and she very kindly responded:

1) Who are your favorite (middle grade) writers?
Louis Sachar has been a favorite for a long time, along with Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler. They wrote some of the books that shaped my adolescence. More recent favorites include Rita Williams-Garcia, Linda Urban, and Katherine Paterson, among others.

2) What's on your nightstand now?
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, which is definitely not a middle grade novel! But I've also got a couple graphic novels I've been meaning to read, like Sing No Evil, Five Weapons, Bad Houses, and Bandette, and I just finished The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson.

3) Pick a favorite scene from your novel, and say why you like it
My favorite scene is in chapter 5, which I call "the Hot Dog scene." This was one of the first scenes I had plotted out in my mind when I wrote Hope Is a Ferris Wheel, and though it's changed quite a bit over all the drafts, the intent has always remained the same. I feel it encapsulates a very important theme in the novel - Star's mom and sister clashing and arguing, and Star being torn between the two of them.

4) Fill in the blank: I'm really awesome at....
Writing silly songs and poems. I'm glad I got to write Star's poems in Hope Is a Ferris Wheel - those are pretty indicative of my poetic abilities. I also love writing sonnets.

5) My favorite breakfast is...
Eggs Benedict! But if I have to make my own breakfast, then it's a flatbread scrambled egg sandwich with sausage, cheese, and pesto.

6) If you could visit any place, where would it be?
I have a couple of favorite restaurants I always wish I were eating at. A sushi place in Berkeley, a tea shop in Eureka, a burger joint that serves bison burgers on highway 101... At different times, I'll crave one of these places and wish I could visit again.

About the Author: Robin's "About Me" page on her website says it all! (You'll get a great sense of her wit if you visit her there.)

I have a signed hardback copy waiting for anyone who cares to comment. U.S. and Canadian entries only, I'm afraid. And thanks for stopping by!


  1. I've heard of this book and it sounds really good. And glad you're back to blogging. I think we're all starting to take breaks in August, so don't fee guilty.

  2. This sounds like a great read. Thanks for the author interview, too! It's fun knowing what scenes the author had the most fun with!

  3. Welcome back to my favorite Mafioso! I read this one earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Very interesting to read about her favorite scene as it also was one of mine, though this story is overflowing with memorable moments.

  4. Yay! You're back! As you may recall, I really loved this book, and not just the vocab sentences or the hot dog scene. I loved the voice. Thanks for the Q&A with Robin. I enjoyed learning more about her. Since I already have my very own hardcover (*hugs book*), please give this to someone else.

  5. Nice to see you back! Thanks for this review. This is a book I've had on my radar for a few months and hope I can get to it soon. Thanks for a chance to win a copy!

  6. I've had this book on hold for awhile, and it just came in. So, I will be reading it too! I've been looking forward to it, because I live near Portland too and like supporting Oregon writers.

  7. Pitch-perfect, poetry, and doughnuts. This sounds like a great book that I'd love to read with my daughter. Thanks for offering the giveaway!


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